When the plans to construct the first atheist monument on public land were announced, I asked if it would be perceived as anything other than a Christian protest monument. However, since its June 29th dedication, few media outlets have even pondered this question. This is quite unfortunate since, in my opinion, the monument’s primary purpose was to challenge the American people (specifically those in Florida) as to whether the rights of a minority group were to be defended from the will of the majority. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but one would hope that as we began to celebrate America’s independence, at least one story would be published in defense of individual liberty, or even the Bill of Rights, as they relate to the American Atheist monument.
However, the best we were given are reports similar to the one presented by Jacksonville Florida’s Channel 4. In it, upholding the Constitution is mentioned, and Ken Loukinen articulates the sound-bites brilliantly (good job Ken), but the coverage is relatively biased. It focuses on the fact that the “people calling themselves atheists” were outnumbered by the believers. Since when is “mob rule” the law of our land? That’s about as relevant as a journalist stating that there is one guy who says he doesn’t want to be lynched, but he’s outnumbered by those crying for his hanging.
Another news story quotes Michael Tubbs, the State Chairman of the Florida League of the South. His organization wants their state to succeed from the Union due to the federal government’s “repeated and ever worsening encroachments upon the lives, liberty, and property of the People of the sovereign States.” Hence, he is obliged be on the side of liberty, right? He should say something about disagreeing with American Atheists, but ¡Viva la Independencia! No. Instead he said this:
“We reject outsiders coming to Florida — especially from outside what we refer to as the Bible Belt — and trying to remake us in their own image. We do feel like it’s a stick in the eye to the Christian people of Florida to have these outsiders come down here with their money and their leadership and promote their outside values here.”
Besides being a hypocrite, and not remaining true to his principles, Tubbs either ignored (or was ignorant of) the fact there are thousands of atheists living in Florida. Many of whom were present, and spoke at the monument’s dedication.
To be fair, some news coverage was given to opponents of American Atheists who, at least on the surface, appeared to support the placement of the monument. However, one need not be a soothsayer to divine these remarks as anything other than dismissive. The first came from Bradford County’s attorney, Will Sexton. Sexton downplayed the settlement as simply a way to save taxpayer’s money, and then implied it was Bradford County’s intention all along to allow “any organization” to erect a monument in the courthouse’s free speech zone:
“The county’s position had always been that if private groups wanted to install monuments in the forum, they were permitted to do so, but the county was not taking any position and did not want to spend any tax payer money.”
“We want you all to remember that this issue was won on the basis of this being a free speech issue, so don’t be alarmed when the American Atheists want to erect their own sign or monument. It’s their right. As for us, we will continue to honor the Lord and that’s what matters.”
Yes, victory for the “freedom of speech” is not that big of a deal.
Once more, I want to underscore that as another celebration of independence ends, and as we continue to be distraught by the incessant abuses of an ever-expanding government, it is mandatory that we champion individual liberty and freedom for all, especially for those with whom we disagree. Our nation was founded by individuals who esteemed the ideals of Voltaire, who it is believed wrote in a letter to Madame du Deffand, the words: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Do these words still resonate in America? Forget the death part; are we willing at least to take a seat on a monument created by those with opposing views?
Since, I have been focusing on celebrating independence and the principles upon which America was founded; I will leave you with two quotes by our forth and second Presidents. James Madison and John Adams were far from friends, and they were on the opposite sides of many key issues. Yet, both of these men understood the importance of individual liberty. Please read these quotes in light of the American Atheist Monument.
“In Republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority.” — James Madison (Speech at the Virginia Constitutional Convention)
“If a majority are capable of preferring their own private interest, or that of their families, counties, and party, to that of the nation collectively, some provision must be made in the constitution, in favor of justice, to compel all to respect the common right, the public good, the universal law, in preference to all private and partial considerations… And that the desires of the majority of the people are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority, is demonstrated by every page of history… To remedy the dangers attendant upon the arbitrary use of power, checks, however multiplied, will scarcely avail without an explicit admission some limitation of the right of the majority to exercise sovereign authority over the individual citizen… In popular governments [democracies], minorities [individuals] constantly run much greater risk of suffering from arbitrary power than in absolute monarchies…” — John Adams (The Works of John Adams Volume 6)
Let freedom ring.