Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Ainsley Anderson

Keeping Arkansas SAFE from religion

By Ainsley Anderson

Watching my close friends’ experiences with religion was like watching a strange television show — so different from my upbringing. My mom is a true atheist and proud of it. She taught me the art of skepticism and individuality. She and I were both raised as outsiders in the South, surrounded by religion and its suffocating grip on progress. I watch my friends making careful science-based decisions for many parts of their lives, except when it comes to religion. I’ve come to realize that it’s not just a TV show, it is reality. Being raised by my family completely free from religion has let me see the effects such intense and blind faith can have on our world.

I have chosen to put my faith, or rather trust, into science. My rationale is simple — faith and religion has and continues to be detrimental to progress. In my home state of Arkansas, with a church on almost every corner, our state legislature takes great pride in legislating in the name of God. In April, our legislature passed the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, putting Arkansas on the hate map again as the first state to pass a bill restricting access to gender-affirming health care for anyone under 18. During the session, a senator directly quoted the bible, voicing her support for the bill targeting the LGBTQ+ community. The First Amendment of the Constitution centers around the idea of separation of church and state. These lawmakers ignore the document that they so proudly stand behind when it supports their cause. The hypocrisy is pungent.

This issue is personal for me, as my younger sibling is a part of the LGBTQ+ community. It is absolutely terrifying to witness the effects this bill has already had, not only on my sibling, but on other trans youth. A pediatric doctor in Arkansas recently testified that just in the last week after the bill was passed there were “multiple kids in our emergency room because of attempted suicide.” Science tells us that gender-affirming care saves lives. Ignoring that science is dangerous — religion gives our lawmakers an excuse to proceed with ignorance. Science, in this case, would literally save lives. And religion got in the way. It’s time to make religio

Ainsley Anderson

n something that is only seen on television and remove the barriers that blind us to science.

Ainsley, 18, lives in Little Rock, Ark., and attends Tulane University.

“I was president of several clubs, including Junior Civitan, Women in STEM, and Young Democrats, and was also captain of the varsity girls soccer team,” writes Ainsley. “I plan to get my undergraduate degree in environmental engineering and go on to graduate school.”