Atheist activist’s son faces job discrimination

Richard Sherman is being denied a position as a science teacher in a Chicago-area public school, and it appears the reason is because his father is the well-known and outspoken Atheist, Robert Sherman.  You might recall his 1987 interview with George HW Bush, in which the President said he wasn’t sure Atheists should be considered citizens or patriots.

Atheist’s son deserves a job on own merits

Sherman, 23, is the son of civil rights activist and atheist leader Rob Sherman of Buffalo Grove, whose relentless crusades of the last 20 years, most over church-state issues, have alienated many who don’t share his interpretation of the Constitution or God.

But the family tie didn’t come up, Sherman said, when he interviewed with the district in January and again in mid-April as he prepared to graduate from the University of Wisconsin, where he concentrated on science and earned a teaching certificate.

After the April interview, he said, Schaumburg High School Principal Sharon Cross offered him a job for the fall. School science department chairman William Lederhouse then sent Sherman congratulatory and welcoming e-mails, copies of which Sherman shared with me.

A week ago Wednesday, Sherman said he had an orientation meeting with district personnel director Robert Grimm in which he signed various papers and received information on employment benefits.

Sherman said Grimm expressed keen interest in Sherman’s “famous father” and warned him that “some parents might give you a hard time.”

As a boy, “Ricky Sherman” was a figure—some might say a pawn—in his father’s battles with the Boy Scouts and over the mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. As a teenager, he was in the headlines again when his father was found guilty of domestic battery for striking him in what his father maintains was harmless corporal punishment.

Today, Richard describes their relationship as “really good. We can’t stand each other when we live together,” he said. “But otherwise we get along well.”

Monday morning, he said, Grimm called him and said the district had new, “serious concerns” to discuss with him. At a face-to-face meeting that afternoon, Sherman said, Grimm grilled him about his teaching philosophy, his opinions about curriculum, his outlook on the federal No Child Left Behind Act and other education-related topics.

Sherman said he found both the timing and the substance of the questions very curious—the subjects hadn’t come up in any previous interviews or conversations—but that he offered “mainstream” answers.

Sherman said Grimm then told him he felt Sherman’s “philosophies on teaching didn’t mesh well with those of other teachers and division heads” at the school. He said Grimm told him he therefore would not recommend Sherman be formally hired in what was to be a pro-forma motion at Thursday night’s board of education meeting.

Such an abrupt and peculiar withdrawal of a job offer would raise significant questions under any circumstances. But here it raises an odor as well—the smell of fear, of religious intolerance and injustice.

The young Sherman is his own man with his own religious beliefs and his own agenda—teaching, not crusading. If the fact that his father is one of the most controversial public figures in the northwest suburbs played any role in the sudden withdrawal of the job offer, it would, as he puts it, amount to a blatant “moral and ethical breach.”

Puh-lease…  there’s no question of what’s happening here!  If this isn’t a slam-dunk win for Rick Sherman, there’s more wrong in this country than I can bear to contemplate.

Found via a post on the Restore the Pledge Forums


4 thoughts on “Atheist activist’s son faces job discrimination

  1. Do you know that Richard Sherman himself is an atheist?  I find this ridiculous if it is true, but the article or at least the portion quoted seems to be very vague about what exactly the cause of the new conflict is.  If he is an atheist and they knew this than the issue should have popped up earlier than it did.  Besides what are “mainstream” answers?  To me that translates that he told them what they wanted to hear or what the majority of teachers would have said about the issues questioned.  While I would agree that if his philosophy of education and teaching methods are significantly different than the school systems (meaning almost completely opposed) than they should not feel the need to hire him.  But they should be fairly tolerant.  I can’t imagine a “mainstream” answer would include the use of a flail for punishment and throwing textbooks out the windows for meditating on the kaleidoscope effect from a dose of LSD.  I hope there reason for rejecting him has nothing to do with his religious preference.  Religious intolerance sucks.

  2. Hmmmm…I always find it very interesting when public schools mix religion and education.  Many people forget that public schools are not there to teach “morals”, they are there to teach the basics: math, science, reading, etc.  The rest of life’s goodies (morals, religion, what-have-you) are supposed to be taught by the parent(s).  Some one in that school district will need to come up with some good answers.

    I think it’s time that Americans get their witch hunts undercontrol and stop the bullshit.  Let teacher’s teach and keep the politics and the religious crap out of schools.  Maybe then we wouldn’t have to keep lowering the standards so kids could pass.  It’s sad that those kids may have lost a good science teacher because of some one’s political agenda.

  3. I went to school with Ricky for a number of years, and he was always a really nice kid. I doubt he has changed all that much since graduating high school, which means this crap was utterly ridiculous. I’m sure he’d be a great teacher. And actually I heard he IS teaching now, somewhere else. Good for him.

  4. atheists should start some sort of organization that prevents this, im not sure if there is one now? if there is its not doing a very good job. the laws certainly don’t protect us.

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