Freethinker of the Year Award

Michael Bristor – 1996

Freethinker of the Year, Jr.

At the age of six, Michael Bristor was harassed and ridiculed by his Minnesota first-grade teacher for not participating in illegal classroom prayer. The complaints of his parents, Mary Lue Bristor and Carl Larson, were never acknowledged, and the school board did nothing about the daily harassment: "She gave me time outs for not praying. Kids were calling me a devil worshipper." At the end of the school year, Michael sat with all of the honor roll students during the awards ceremony, but his name was never called. His name had been deliberately left off the list because he was not religious. Three years after a legal complaint was lodged, with the help of the ACLU and Minnesota Atheists, Michael finally received his award. The "mini-Freethinker of the Year" award was presented to Michael when he was 12.

"Now I just tell people I'm an atheist, and they say, 'Okay,' and I really like that. Most kids that I tell say they're an atheist too."

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