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Texas teacher fired because he's Atheist

Texas Teacher suspended for being “Liberal” and an “atheist”

Written by: Brad Watkins on Feb 2, 2009 4:03 PM EST

For the past few days I have been in contact with Mr. Richard Mullens a school teacher in Brookeland Tx. Brookeland Tx, is an incredibly “Conservative” area of Texas, and only 16 miles up the road from Jasper Tx. the scene of several incidents of racial violence and murder. Mullens has been the victim of a smear campaign and a slew of unethical practices, based solely on his religious and political beliefs. I have received numerous calls today from area parents, and concerned local residents who feel that Mr. Mullens is a good teacher, who has encouraged and inspired his students to think critically, and independently and is innocent of all charges, both spoken and written. In fact the administration of Brookeland High School made attempts to urge students to sign a list of alleged chargers against Mr. Mullens of which over 100 students out of 103 refused to sign.The students attempted to present to the Board of education a petition in support of Mr. Mullens and refuting any charges of inappropriate language made against him. The Principal of Brookeland High School, not only refused to take this petition to the board but forbade the students from such actions. Mr. Mullins is being railroaded by a School board of which all of those who support his removal are members of the same church. A church who’s pastor has openly called for there to be only Christian teachers in the Brookeland school district. Currently the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center is in contact with several local and national civil rights organizations in Texas, who will be contacting Mr. Mullens, investigating this situation and offering their support. But if anyone out there knows any other resource that can be brought in to stop this injustice, I ask you please contact us, and forward this out to them. at The following is a statement of events from Mr. Mullens, some names and details were redacted by me.

I, Richard Mullens, have been a teacher in the state of Texas since 1971. I have never received a negative comment, complaint, or write-up during this period of time. On the contrary, I have received recognition for my teaching and the test scores of my students. No matter what district I’ve taught in, my students have always excelled in the state mandated tests. I currently teach in Brookeland, TX, a small rural district about 16 miles north of Jasper, TX. I’ve taught at Brookeland for the past 6 years. I’ve been in my current position as US history, government, and economics teacher for 3 years.

These past 2 years have been an exciting time for me as a history and government teacher. My classes have followed the primary and election campaigns. My senior class last year, with the aid of the superintendent Lana Comeaux, was able to travel to Beaumont, TX to see Bill Clinton make a stump speech on behalf of his wife Hillary Clinton. In class we followed the primary campaign using Newsweek magazine and Junior Scholastic magazine to keep us informed about the issues. We had passionate debates about the issues and the candidates. It was obvious to my class that I supported Barack Obama. I allowed all students to express their opinions, as long as they did not include racial slurs or non-factual information. On occasion, I had to correct misinformation that was expressed by students. For example, that Barack Obama was un-American, that he did not say the pledge, and that he was a terrorist. After Barack Obama’s election, I was looking forward to being able to share the inauguration with my students by letting them watch it on TV in my classroom. But instead, I found myself at home suspended from my job.

On November 7th, at a basketball game that was supposed to be our homecoming scrimmage, I sat at the scores table as a coach with Lana Comeaux, the superintendent. I was not allowed to coach because we would be in violation of UIL rules. Lana Comeaux at that time told me she was under pressure from the school board and they were looking for her to resign. She said that my name was also on the list of people that the board wanted to resign or fire. I asked why, and she said that a school board member had expressed to her that he believed I was an atheist and a liberal. She asked me if I was an atheist and I refused to answer the question. I said, “I won’t play this game. I didn’t know you had to take a religious test to be a teacher in the state of Texas.” Nothing was said after that point, although there was a lot of tension among the other coaches about whether they would be able to keep their jobs or not, because she also told them that many of them were on the list.

Then on January 7th, a student in my classroom in second period left my class, went to the Principal’s office, and told him that there was an inappropriate discussion in my classroom. I was informed by the principal, Richard Turner, that I needed to talk to her mother because she was very upset. Her mother came to class on January 7th, came to the school January 7th, very upset. She made some threats to me in the hallway. And then on January 8th, Mr. Turner informed me that I needed to call the parent, Mrs. Lowe. On January 9th, I had Vicki Smith, the school secretary, call “REDACTED” on my behalf to arrange a conference at 10:35 Monday, January 12th. Monday the 12th, I met with REDACTED and School Principal Richard Turner in his office. REDACTED was very angry. She accused me of being an atheist, saying I was too liberal, and that I allowed the students to talk about inappropriate things in the classroom. I told her that occasionally students would get on topics and say things, but I was unable to censor them before they were able to say them. She said that I called her daughter a name and I denied the accusation. But then she said that I didn’t believe in god and shouldn’t be teaching. She also said that she had spoken to 3 other board members who agreed with her that I shouldn’t be teaching because I was too liberal and I was an atheist.

On January 15th, there was a board meeting. Nothing was on the agenda concerning me. During the open forum, several audience members spoke to their concerns that I was an atheist and I was too liberal. On January 16th, I was called to Mr. Richard Turner’s office (my principal), and he informed me that I had been put on administrative leave with pay. The reasons, as stated to me by Mr. Turner at the time, were that I was accused of being an atheist and teaching atheism in the classroom, and I was too liberal. On January 23rd, Mr. Turner and members of the board met behind closed doors concerning my suspension and allegations that were directed at me. On January 24th, I received a certified letter from Mr. Turner that stated that the causes for my suspension apparently had been changed to inappropriate contact with students and comments. He admonished me in the letter for having contact with students who had text-messaged me during my first week of suspension, but I had not received any administrative directive, or anything in writing, prior to that time telling me I could not have contact with students. On January 26th, I called my lawyer REDACTED, with ATTE, and informed him of my situation that I was put on administrative leave with pay, pending an investigation.

I later had conversations with parents and a person who lives in the community, who informed me that the principal had met with the minister of the local church and had discussed my suspension with him. I also later received information from REDACTED,a “SCHOOL EMPLOYEE-POSITION REDACTED”, that the minister was now subbing at the school and that he had heard that he would be taking my position, or if I returned he would be co-teaching with me.

There have been a number of rumors in our community now concerning inappropriate behavior: high school girls coming to my class to supposedly smoke marijuana, all kinds of accusations made by the members of the missionary baptist church at which this minister is the preacher. In the January 24th letter from Mr. Richard Turner, my principal, I was also informed that my suspension had been extended indefinitely.

Richard Mullens
I would think that the ACLU would be the obvious organization to contact.This is what they do.
I would try the ACLU and It wouldn't hurt to look into American Atheists Org also. If this is a private School and/or religious School not secular or public they may have some trouble helping him. IMO regardless of if it is or not it's still discrimination and bigotry. Why is a Pastor even getting involved in the decision to suspend or even fire a teacher? Seems to me the pastor is running the School not the Principal or School Board...they take orders from the pastor. Does his church own, run the School.

I hope Mr. Mullens knows not to talk to the students with out recording what is said even if they are on his side. Especially when/if one on one or at his home. You never know when a parent will pressure their son/daughter into framing him, even when the student doesn't want to. I'm surprised there isn't video taping in classes today with all the accusations and teacher/student affairs being reported. Even if he isn't atheist there is no need to bring up a god in class and if he is atheist it shouldn't matter.

I hope Mr. Mullens hires a lawyer, preferably an atheist one, and sues them for discrimination, bigotry, false suspension (or whatever you call it) and the cost of his having to hire a lawyer.
Edited by Sinny on 02/06/2009 18:44
Sadly I would not be surprised if this teacher ends up moving on or retiring. It seems like he does have enough years in that he should be able to retire.

If the nature of the area is as described then the likelihood of him getting a fair hearing in court is probably very low. Even if the facts are (as they appear) all on his side the sort of people who he will face in court, including the judge, will be more than willing to find against him because he is both an atheist and a liberal.

There are a vast number of instances in american court rooms where findings are made not on the basis of fact but on the basis of who you are. Imagine being an african-american facing a criminal charge in 1955 Mississippi, or 2008 Jena, Louisiana for example.
Doubting Thomas
This is very saddening but not surprising.

I'm reminded of those Texas tourism commercials that have the motto: "Texas, it's like a whole 'nother country." Unfortunately, it seems to be the Republic of Redneck Jesusland.
You're just jealous because the voices are talking to me and not you.
I remember that motto DT. I have a much better understanding of it today than I did back then which scares me a little but I still roll my eyes at it.

If he goes to court and looses it could do serious damage to his reputation. I don't know but wonder if it would prevent him from getting another job. I hope he finds an organization and a lawyer who will fight hard for him andhe wins. If this isn't possible then I hope he lands a job teaching in a college/university and ends up with a much higher salary than he has now. It would prove that atheists do get discriminated against and that's something everyone needs to know. Many xtians claim that isn't true it would help to have concrete evidence show how wrong they are. So I not only hope can fight back legally to get it on the books this School and admins. are in fact discriminating against him b/c he's an atheist and liberal. Sure would have better if it never happened though.

It's not right that this happened and worse when atheists can't fight back. I'm sure there are so many cases that go unreported or are hidden from the public.
Edited by Sinny on 02/07/2009 22:11
EEOC. ACLU. Anything and everything he can do to not take this lying down or quietly. He may not win, but he (IMO) shouldn't quietly crawl away without trying to bring the truth out into the open and, most importantly, keep his job.

And make others aware that if they try to do this to other people they're likely to get stood up to, too. It's the only way to let the kinds of people who want to continue doing things this way know that no longer can they expect atheists to quietly go away with their tails between their legs. Those days have to end.

I must say that, unfortunately and with sorrow, that I'm not at all surprised. Critical thinking is definitely frowned upon, especially if students are taught to use it.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
That is exactly one of the most important reasons it must be done - and boldly and loudly, I say!


No, but seriously, I mean it.

*Edit - what, that is truth and useful and non-restrictive in the best of ways, hasn't been frowned upon, by theists?
Edited by Hypatia on 02/18/2009 14:28
But if students are taught how to think critically, why, it might remove the blind faith and patriotism (e.g. "my country, right or wrong"). We can't have that, can we?ShockWink
Edited by catman on 02/18/2009 15:51
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
Of course not. And don't forget 'In Gawd We Trust'. After all, that 'uns on our money.

But I wonder - what's taking so long in getting it on our credit cards? We must have back up, so when we aren't shelling out green at the check stand our churchoment (church/government) will make sure we not forget.

Good point! Those damned heathen credit card companies...I like the word 'churchoment'.Wink
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
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