$1,000 ‘Strong Backbone’ award: 12-year-old wins FFRF activist scholarship

Kylie Morgan

Kylie has been awarded FFRF’s “Strong Backbone Scholarship” of $1,000 endowed annually by an octogenarian member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in honor of his birthday. FFRF is grateful for his support of youthful activism.

By Kylie Morgan

I used to go to Milton Middle School in Milton, W.Va. I’ve lived in that school district my entire life, but we recently had to move due to my complaint about religion in my school.

We had eight class periods throughout the day, including a health class with Mrs. Ashworth for my sixth-period class. Everyone in that class seemed to be religious, including the teacher. Little did I know that on March 10, things were about to take an unexpected and unpleasant turn.

We were talking about “starting a family” when the topic turned to God. She said that we should wait until we are married to get physically involved with somebody. The day before, she had mentioned going to church. I decided to start recording. 

To paraphrase, she said it’s crazy how some people don’t believe in God, and that people can’t be moral unless they’re Christian. She said that if you were raised with morals and values, God will be there to guide and help you, which, to me, implied that people who don’t believe in God don’t have morals or values. She spent four minutes talking about Jesus, violating our constitutional rights, as she is an employee of the state. According to her, some of the people in her first- and second-period classes mentioned how often she brings God into many of her lessons, and that she “tries to squeeze it in without getting in too much trouble.”

In mid-March, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a cease-and-desist letter to the school district, and that’s when things took a turn. My dad picked me up from school, and the next day, there were adults protesting at my bus stop. I started getting messages to my phone from people I didn’t know. One person wrote, “Hey, is this Kylie? . . . I’m a nice person. I’m not here to say [anything bad] to you . . . Mrs. Ashworth does not deserve to be fired, but I’m so sorry about all the eighth graders, my grade, posting about you. There’s no reason for them to do that.” And that was one of the nice messages. 

Somebody doxed my real phone number to their Snapchat story. I had to change my phone number. I couldn’t even leave my house to take out the trash. Finally, I went to visit my grandma. I was there in hiding for a few weeks while my dad moved us to New York City. I’m joining a new school district in Manhattan. I’m excited to be in an area that doesn’t know who I am and doesn’t want me dead.

Kylie, 12, likes Minecraft, has a few close friends and writes, “I’m an atheist, but grew up around Christians (except my mom and dad). I like to watch TikTok, YouTube and Twitch. My dad is a YouTuber, and I’ve been on his channel a few times.”