A few of the girls challenged me to prove evolution right in front of them. One because her mother insists it is evil. The other because she loves to display a healthy dose of skepticism every chance she gets now that I’ve praised her for her natural tendency to question. So, I mentioned a few things about evolution, and that atheists and scientists aren’t the ones claiming to have all the answers anyway—you know, the usual. But, as the mood became elevated about this one issue I just stopped, sighed, looked straight at our wonderful skeptic, and asked with quiet resignation, “You know why we come out here?” They all got quiet as I let the question hang a minute. Then I continued, “Because people are telling you you’re going to hell.” I paused to look around at each set of eyes, that were all on me. “Because they’re calling you names.” They know too well the names I meant. You could have heard a pin drop. After I let my honesty sink in a minute, I firmly stated, “And I hate that.” I said it again with conviction, “I hate that.” They were all fixed on me. You could feel the tension as they awaited my next words. In that moment, class got real.

It’s a very serious thing we’re doing out at Juvenile Hall. We’re not converting. We’re not trying to convince. We’re equipping girls to think, reason and be skeptical. If they decide to believe in a god, we tell them that’s perfectly fine. We’re possibly the only ones in their lives who are not shoving rules and judgment on them, not yelling at them, not insisting we have the only truth, telling them how awful they are.

There was no chance to get to the topic I’d prepared. It was raised hands the whole session, one after another. Most had been in this class before, so there wasn’t as much attitude. No one laughed at anyone else’s questions this time. Even the one who usually tries to proselytize only had a few really good questions, no attitude at all. Officer Webb says they trust me now. I can feel it. It’s been almost a year.

Eight of us will lead these classes. Once all 8 of us have our ID Badges we can possibly open up a Freethinkers Class in the other girl’s unit, as well. This is historic. No one has ever heard of any such class in any juvenile hall anywhere before. (Church folks, of course, visit each unit several times a week.)

What I need right now are lower level books. If any of you could look over the Books Behind Bars Wish List on Amazon (sort by Priority) I’d really love to get some of these out there for them. If you purchase from this wish list, they are delivered directly to my house, then I take them out there. They have no internet, no phones, no way to look anything up, other than the 65 books on their small library shelf, of which 43 are bibles. The books I bring are locked away in a box labeled “Atheist Books”. They check them out to take to their cells. One girl secretly took one home when she was released. I love that.

Thanks to all of you for caring about this program.


I'm a lifelong skeptic, mother, and President of the ACSJ.

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