Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Linda Rayle: Stuffing envelopes provided catharsis

Vol. 38 No. 09 November 2021
FFRF’s “Top 10 Public School State/Church Violations” brochure. Please note: The brochure is being updated and can be read online: ffrf.org/publications/brochures.             

By Linda Rayle

I recently volunteered for the Schools Project by the Greater Sacramento Chapter of FFRF. The goal was to send cover letters and brochures to all the school districts in California to remind them of their duty to keep schools secular. (See main story on this page.) Remembering a particular incident in high school, I immediately volunteered. 

I attended school in Anaheim, Calif., from first grade through high school. One day in high school, my U.S. history teacher informed all of the class that if we weren’t baptized, we were going to hell. He then asked for a show of hands of those who weren’t baptized. I was not. So, I was informed that I was going to hell.

Fast-forward 43 years, and I’m married to another atheist. We’re both proud members of FFRF. About two years ago, we moved from Anaheim to a city outside Sacramento. We’ve attended several FFRF functions and have gotten to know some wonderful like-minded people, including chapter President Judy Saint.

When Judy sent the email asking for volunteers for the Schools Project, I immediately replied. I was so excited to participate and do my part to remind schools of their duty to stay secular. Memories of that day in high school with my teacher telling me I was going to hell came flooding back.

My hope is that the school superintendents would disseminate the information to all employees to remind them to keep their schools secular. I don’t want any student to feel the way I did that day so long ago — humiliated, angry, and hurt. 

When I received my kit, it had a total of 45 cover letters and envelopes. I had whittled my way down to the last 10 cover letters, and I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I did five more and then looked at the next letter in my stack — it was for the Brea School District in southern California! I excitedly looked through the remaining four cover letters and discovered they were all for Orange County. And there it was — a letter for the Anaheim Union High School District!

Now, if I were a religious person, I could imagine that this was some sort of “sign” from a higher power. For what, though? Perhaps because of that one teacher who said I was going to hell? I can only imagine what a believing person would make of this. Me, though? It was a happy coincidence and made me feel even better about what I was doing. It was coming full circle, taking me back to that day in class with that arrogant, self-righteous teacher. And now I was sending literature to that same school district to remind them that that sort of speech in class is a violation of state/church separation.

I excitedly addressed the envelope to the Anaheim district, carefully folding the cover letter and placing that, along with the brochure, into the envelope. I did this deliberately, taking my time to savor the moment. It was cathartic and felt like a long overdue defense of my 17-year-old self.

Linda Rayle is an FFRF member.