Take Action: Support Atheism in Washington State

Last week, in “Getting Our Message Out“, I wrote about the winter solstice sign that the FFRF posted in Washington state’s capitol building. The sign was put up after the state had legally obliged itself to create an open forum by allowing the placement of other privately sponsored displays carrying specifically Christian-themed messages, including a nativity scene. The FFRF’s sign bears the following message:

At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail.

There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.

There is only our natural world.

Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

An identical sign has been posted in the Wisconsin state capitol for the past 13 years without causing any great fuss, but the one in Olympia seems destined to be different. At first it was stolen, then later recovered. Then local Christian groups started putting up opposing signs. But now the dam has burst:

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in front of the Washington state Capitol Sunday, outraged over an atheist display inside.

…Outside, the protest included an opposing sign that portrays Governor Christine Gregoire as the Grinch. It also shows a balloon featuring Bill O’Reilly punching the governor.

…A spokesman at the Capitol said they were getting calls from across the country at a rate of about 200 an hour.

This circus began when professional right-wing bloviator Bill O’Reilly made the FFRF’s sign the latest target of his perpetual outrage on his nightly TV show, calling it “political correctness gone mad”. Apparently, “political correctness” (along with “falafel”, of course) is another word O’Reilly doesn’t know the meaning of. For the record, political correctness means language specifically tailored to offend no one; and whatever else one might say about the FFRF’s sign, we can safely assume that was not one of its goals. If the FFRF’s sign is anything, it’s “politically incorrect” – but the brave culture warriors on the right usually reserve that term for themselves, as a badge of pride for surviving the liberal inquisitions they imagine that they endure.

In any case, O’Reilly’s jeremiad led to hundreds of religious fanatics, none of whom evidently had anything better to do, descending on the courthouse to demand… actually, it’s not clear what they’re demanding, unless it’s the revocation of the First Amendment. Governor Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, and the state’s Republican attorney general issued a joint statement pointing out that the state, having chosen to allow one religious display, cannot legally discriminate against others. One would not expect this perfectly accurate and reasonable legal point to make any impression on the protestors, which it didn’t. Judging by his blustering, even O’Reilly didn’t grasp this simple point (or else didn’t let it interfere with an opportunity to demagogue):

“Washington state is ground zero for just about every nutty secular cause on Earth,” O’Reilly said. “She is a weak and confused leader who allows a fanatical group parody in Christmas displays. I mean, how crazy is this?”

That one word – “allows” – speaks volumes about O’Reilly’s worldview. He seems to think that the government’s role is to decide which religious messages are acceptable, and then use its power to promote those while denying access to all the rest. Fortunately for all of us, he was born several hundred years too late for that. We live in the United States of America, a secular nation founded on human reason and not revelation, and one where petty, loudmouthed bullies do not get to decide which views may or may not be expressed. The infuriated reaction among bigots just goes to show why the FFRF’s message needs to be more widely broadcasted. I, for one, hope identical signs are posted next year in every state capitol or public park that chooses to allow nativity scenes.

Despite appearances, this whole fiasco is a good thing for atheists. The religious right will use it to stoke their perpetual offense, I’m sure, but they would have done that anyway. We, however, can use it to boost our message and our visibility – just think how much free publicity the FFRF is likely to reap from all this national attention – and to reinforce our message about the wisdom of separating church and state. The headache this has no doubt caused for the Washington state government is almost certainly going to cause a lot of other local governments nationwide to reassess whether putting religious symbols on state land is really a good idea.

With that said, being the right’s enemy of the moment can’t be fun for Governor Gregoire. I note that she could have taken the politically safe route of posting only the Christian symbol and then choosing to stand and fight the inevitable lawsuit, earning pandering points with religious voters even as she wastes the state’s money. This is exactly what many other politicians have done in this circumstance, but she chose to uphold the rule of law, and we ought to thank her for that. I can guarantee that any positive message we send her and her staff, expressing our gratitude for their willingness to defend the Constitution, will go a long way toward counteracting the tsunami of hate from the rabid O’Reillyites.

Here’s Governor Gregoire’s contact information. If you want to stand up for atheism and fight back against the religious right, please send her office an e-mail or a phone call, and let them know that you’re an American who appreciates politicians that understand separation of church and state. If you contact her office, please leave a comment and let us know about any response you receive.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Brad

    Thank you, Bill O’Reilly:

    KELLY: What I’m saying is, unless it constitutes fighting words, which means you incite immediate violence, that’s how inflammatory your words are, then it shouldn’t be challenged.

    O’REILLY: It’s inappropriate — it’s inappropriate in that setting to attack a religion.

    KELLY: Inappropriate is not something we want our government deciding.

    O’REILLY: That’s what the settlement says. It has to be appropriate.

    KELLY: It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Do you really want Governor Christine Gregoire to tell you what’s appropriate?

    O’REILLY: Yes, I do.

    KELLY: Because you’re on the side of the Christians in this case.

    O’REILLY: There has to be standards in any settlement.

    KELLY: No. But government doesn’t decide what’s appropriate speech. That is not the way this country works.

    O’REILLY: OK. Then you’ve got…

    KELLY: That’s the bedrock of the First Amendment.

    O’REILLY: You have to let the Klan in to denigrate Dr. King? You have to let them?

    KELLY: Sadly, that’s true…

    O’REILLY: No.

    KELLY: …unless it crosses the fighting words line. Yes, Bill, the history of this country is if you don’t like offensive speech, you walk away.

    O’REILLY: Then every nut-cake group in the country can go into every state capitol and ruin every federal holiday with crazy signs like that.

    KELLY: I’m sorry to tell you…

    O’REILLY: Sorry, you’re wrong.

    [...]

    KELLY: Do not say that she doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on, because she does.

    O’REILLY: I’m saying she’s a coward and should have done the right thing and didn’t.

    (Via Fox News.)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    I just have to point this out:

    KELLY: It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Do you really want Governor Christine Gregoire to tell you what’s appropriate?

    O’REILLY: Yes, I do.

    Governor Gregoire did tell O’Reilly and everyone else what is appropriate: the government, once it’s created an open forum, must grant equal time to everyone who wants to express a view. He got what he wanted, so why is he still complaining?

  • Brad

    Because there’s appropriate standards to be upheld, jeez! “Politely” standing by as infidels tear apart the fabric of society is positively cowardly!

    *Cue war drums*

  • Virginia

    O’REILLY: Then every nut-cake group in the country can go into every state capitol and ruin every federal holiday with crazy signs like that.

    Sadly that’s what a lot of convervative minds will like to mislead the rest of us — it is quite successful in Asia as Asians tend to avoid displaying such signs as they thought anything that invites a negative reaction is “impolite” and “disrespect” — not really telling the difference between customs that are of culture and those that convey a religious statement (e.g. acknowledging that there is a God).
    So if you are an atheist and you are at a Christian funeral service and you refuse to bow your head as others during the prayer part, in Asia it is interpreted as “impolite” — I bet if I dare to show a sign in the middle of a mall where X’mas is advertised, I probably draw a mob!!!
    (Which I think I should try this year — and see if it be caught on YouTube)

  • http://bridgingschisms.org Eshu

    What I like about the sign is that there’s nothing inherently offensive about it. It’s just a statement of (non) belief. So when the religious kick up a fuss they look unreasonable to those on the fence or in a moderate position.

  • A. Ackermann

    One thing I thought was ironic about this whole thing was this part of the sign: “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

    Bill O’Reilly, and those that agree with his outrage at this event, seem to have hardened hearts, unwilling to let others voice their message over a matter of religion.

  • http://revolutionredux.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/what-they-were-saying-christmas-remembrances-viii/ Annie

    O’REILLY: “I’m saying she’s a coward and should have done the right thing and didn’t.”

    She DID do the right thing – she upheld what the Constitution call on her to do. She protected the civil rights of everyone.

    As to Brillo’s political correctness mantra; I think he is referring to her actions of allowing conflicting and disparate displays rather than referring to the atheists placard.

  • velkyn

    “who allows a fanatical group parody in Christmas displays. I mean, how crazy is this?” ”

    You mean the Christians who show such hatred? Yep, BillO, she has to do that because of the freedoms we all have.

  • Lux Aeterna

    Virginia:
    “So if you are an atheist and you are at a Christian funeral service and you refuse to bow your head as others during the prayer part, in Asia it is interpreted as “impolite” — I bet if I dare to show a sign in the middle of a mall where X’mas is advertised, I probably draw a mob!!!”

    I live in Singapore, a country in South-east Asia and I disagree with that. In my country, people respect each other’s beliefs (religious or not) and their rights to act accordingly (such as not bowing during a Chrisitan funeral). Religion is mostly considered a personal matter and not publicly flaunted like in the west. Usually, we keep our religious beliefs (or lack of) to ourselves.
    With four major religions and approximately 16% of the population having no religion, my country draws a strict line between religion and politics. The government is fair to all camps, atheist included. You won’t and can’t see a mob of Chrisitans protesting here (a mob protesting is illgal you see). Thus, I don’t think religion is given special treatment and both camps are subjected to equal treatment. There is little friction, since we keep our beliefs to ourselves.
    I don’t know about the rest of Asia, but I would think twice before subjecting the largest continent (with a plethora of culture) to such a broad sweeping statement.

  • terrence

    Wouldn’t it be fun to flood BO’s mailbox with pleas and demands for the country to return to honoring the true, original meaning of Christmas? Course, we all know what THAT is :) :) :).

  • Pither

    Some really amazing atheist-bashing going on over here on this very topic. Anyone have time or energy to go and set the record straight?

  • Justin

    For the record, political correctness means language specifically tailored to offend no one

    I’ve noticed a pattern in the far-right’s manner of speech. People like Bill O’Reilly use language in a dumbed-down way. We see the use of equivocation and other language fallacies quite often, and I just wonder whether it is intentional or not.

  • Mark Stevens

    Any religion should be as silent as its god.

  • Polly

    If the people signing O’Reilly’s paycheck needed a “liberal” monkey to dance in that time slot on that station, he’d be hollering about religious conservatives.

    All these guys, and everything on TV in general, is entertainment. All their words amount to no more than the hot air they expel.

    That the bobbleheads who nod at their every eructation about the culture wars take them seriously enough to shoot at Unitarians once in a while, shows what a nation of sheep we are.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Now I’m not a fan of Bill O’Reilly, nor am I very personally embroiled in any of this, but the comment that the governor and attorney general,

    ..having chosen to allow one religious display, cannot legally discriminate against others,

    is interesting.

    What religion was the FFRF’s sign a display of?

  • Tom

    One would not expect this perfectly accurate and reasonable legal point to make any impression on the protestors, which it didn’t.

    I guess I’m a dyed in the wool cynic; I actually burst out laughing when I read this. So damn true.

  • ex machina

    What religion was the FFRF’s sign a display of?

    The constitution does not just protect freedom of religion, but freedom from religion as well. Any other interpretation would put the government in the position of deciding what was a legitimate religion and what wasn’t. Which would be unconstitutional, on top of being an affront to the idea of free speech and thought, which is obvious if you think about it at all. It’s not really a difficult point to understand.

    Did you think your backhanded argument for suppression of the free speech of atheists would go unnoticed and unanswered?

  • http://liquidthinker.wordpress.com LiquidThinker

    “O’REILLY: Then every nut-cake group in the country can go into every state capitol and ruin every federal holiday with crazy signs like that.”

    I’m curious exactly how Bill “I live in my own fantasy” O’Reilly’s federal holiday was “ruined” by this sign. He can no longer celebrate Christmas because he got reminded that not everyone is a Christian? Will he no longer be able to hear a Christmas carol without thinking, “Hey, maybe this stuff is nothing but myth and superstition!”? Is he packing up his Christmas cheer and going home? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Does he also not realize that some people do have a tradition of handing out fruit and nut cakes during the holidays? I’m not crazy about the fruit cakes myself, but nut cakes can be pretty tasty. If a group wants to get together to make nut cakes and distribute signs, that’s fine with me.

  • Brad

    I think the root cause of outrage over this anti-religion sign is that people perceive a slippery slope and fear sliding down it. They fear that religious control of the social sphere – however powerful it is – could slip out of their hands if they allow society’s axles to be lubricated by a lax view of religious authority, and this is profoundly scary to some people.

    What religion was the FFRF’s sign a display of?

    A thorny Catch-22. Indeed, the larger issue surrounding the 1st Amendment and religion is finding a satisfactory formal definition of “respect” and “religion.”

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    It’s really not that thorny. This is obviously religious speech, which can not be endorsed by the government. Just as we don’t want them to say “Xianity is true” we also don’t want the government to say “Xianity is false.”

  • Vin

    The sign has a legitimate right to be up there, but I question the wisdom of the statement. While we athiests agree that fundamentalist religion hardens the heart, it is offensive talk to those who are religious. Not just the fanatics, but also the others who are not. That sign will do more to turn people away from out ‘side’ than any fire and brimstone preacher could. Surely another message could have been used.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Count me among those who would prefer a less offensive sign — that bit about how religion but “hardens hearts and enslaves minds” is stronger than it needs to be, and makes it harder to take the high ground on this. It’s simply not true that all religion only hardens hearts and enslaves minds. That said, I certainly support the FFRF’s right to say that if they choose.

  • stillwaters

    I sent an email expressing my thanks to Governor Gregoire last week. Haven’t heard anything back – don’t expect to, with, apparently, all the flooding going on. I just hope it made someone’s day amongst all the hatred filling their inboxes.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    ex machina,

    Did you think your backhanded argument for suppression of the free speech of atheists would go unnoticed and unanswered?

    Ha! It’s good to try and see where people are going with their arguments and all, but in this case you’re way ahead of yourself – and wrong. I do not argue for the suppression ‘of the free speech of atheists.’ I ask a question.

    The governor and attorney general said,

    ..having chosen to allow one religious display, cannot legally discriminate against others,

    Such is a direct implication on their behalf that the FFRF’s sign is a religious display. To ask which religion the sign is a display of is *not* to argue for the suppression of free speech.

    Note that if you respond, “The FFRF’s sign is a display for the atheist religion,” difficulties arise.

    Note that if you respond, “The FFRF’s sign was not a religious display,” difficulties also arise.

  • markmier

    cl, please define “religion” or “religious.” Make sure that all religions that have ever existed are encompassed within this definition.

  • DemonHype

    My letter:

    Dear Governor Gregoire,

    I would have liked to word my own letter of congratulations to you, but I found this quote from Daylight Atheism states says it perfectly:

    ["Washington state is ground zero for just about every nutty secular cause on Earth," O'Reilly said. "She is a weak and confused leader who allows a fanatical group parody in Christmas displays. I mean, how crazy is this?"

    That one word - "allows" - speaks volumes about O'Reilly's worldview. He seems to think that the government's role is to decide which religious messages are acceptable, and then use its power to promote those while denying access to all the rest. Fortunately for all of us, he was born several hundred years too late for that. We live in the United States of America, a secular nation founded on human reason and not revelation, and one where petty, loudmouthed bullies do not get to decide which views may or may not be expressed. ...With that said, being the right's enemy of the moment can't be fun for Governor Gregoire. I note that she could have taken the politically safe route of posting only the Christian symbol and then choosing to stand and fight the inevitable lawsuit, earning pandering points with religious voters even as she wastes the state's money. This is exactly what many other politicians have done in this circumstance, but she chose to uphold the rule of law, and we ought to thank her for that.]

    I wanted to write and congratulate you for taking a stand for the First Amendment. I’ve heard good things about Washington state and have been working on my parents to move there in a few years when I move to California. Your courage in this situation to do what is right gives me even more confidence that Washington would be a good place for my loved ones to live.

    There is no War on Christmas, but there is definitely a War on the First Amendment, and not all religious folk oppose free expression. The rest of my family, with the exception of my apathetic sister, also sympathize with the situation and agree with your stance, despite all of them being God-believers themselves (I am the only atheist).

    Please stand firm on this issue, because you are defending possibly our most vital American value. I wish we had more politicians willing to make such a stand.

    Respectfully,

    **********
    _________________________________

    If I get a response, I’ll post it.

    I would much rather not have to have an atheist sign up at all, but it seems this is the only way to hopefully illustrate why it is we don’t allow these sorts of displays. You want free speech, well that means your neighbor who disagrees with you gets the same right. I’m probably giving them far too much credit though. I realize they have their own very special definitions of equal rights, which seemss to be “I have the right to talk, you have the right to agree. Turnabout is not fair play. Now shut up and take my abuse.”

    Bill O’Reilly=Colossal Ass
    “I want the government to tell me what’s appropriate, unless it tells me what I don’t want to hear.” Kind of like their take on the Holy Babble–Oh, yeah, dig all that crap about hellfire to unbelievers and how there should be no tolerance for heretics and how childlike gullibility is some kind of virtue and gays need to die and cop that attitude of dutiful obedience….except when that Babble says to sell all you’ve got and give it to the poor and stuff. Selective hearing is such a vital tool to have when you’re interpreting God’s Word. “Lead me where you will, unless I don’t want to go there, in which case I won’t. But I’m totally obedient to authority, unlike those EVIL atheists who chart their own course.”

    Sorry, dude, but we’re all charting our own courses, even you, as your splendid little tirade clearly illustrates. Atheists are just honest about it.

  • abusedbypenguins

    To O’Reilly and all the rest of the whining cry-baby christians; insert a pacifier into the orifice that will make you feel better.

  • ex machina

    Ha! It’s good to try and see where people are going with their arguments and all, but in this case you’re way ahead of yourself – and wrong. I do not argue for the suppression ‘of the free speech of atheists.’ I ask a question.

    The governor and attorney general said,

    ..having chosen to allow one religious display, cannot legally discriminate against others,

    Such is a direct implication on their behalf that the FFRF’s sign is a religious display. To ask which religion the sign is a display of is *not* to argue for the suppression of free speech.

    Indeed, you did by implication. The only purpose for your argument is to find some backdoor to get rid of this sign. Your argument is that the constitution only protects religions, and since atheism isn’t a religion, it’s alright to silence them. If that’s not your argument, what bearing could your question possibly have? Your intentions are transparent.

    Note that if you respond, “The FFRF’s sign is a display for the atheist religion,” difficulties arise.

    Note that if you respond, “The FFRF’s sign was not a religious display,” difficulties also arise.

    No, no difficulties arise at all unless you are totally unfamiliar with US law. I already explained how suppression would violate the constitution as it applies here: speech does not have to be “religious” to be protected. It would also violate the idea of free expression on which the first amendment was based. What difficulties do you speak of? It’s as plain as day: the sign stays up unless you wish to violate civil liberties.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    What religion was the FFRF’s sign a display of?

    The FFRF’s sign was not representing any religion. It was representing atheism, which is the logical complement to religion – the “none of the above” option – and which therefore deserves the same free speech and equal access rights as religion has.

    Did you think your backhanded argument for suppression of the free speech of atheists would go unnoticed and unanswered?

    To be fair, ex machina, I don’t see any evidence that cl was calling for the suppression of atheist speech.

  • 2-D Man

    What religion was the FFRF’s sign a display of?

    It doesn’t need to be of one. The first amendment prohibits congressional support for or suppression of any “establishment” of religion. Atheism is the establishment that religion is based on falsehood, ie an establishment of religion. Therefore, technically the governor’s statement wasn’t completely accurate, however, it’s close enough for practical purposes and her actions support the constitution.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Ebonmuse,

    Like angles in geometry, complementary theories support one another. If anything, atheism is supplementary to religion, so I won’t get in that car with you. But such is a minor point, and thanks for checking the telepathist.

    ex machina,

    We’ve got a telepathist… call the press, Ethel!

    Indeed, you did by implication… The only purpose for your argument is to find some backdoor to get rid of this sign. Your argument is that the constitution only protects religions, and since atheism isn’t a religion, it’s alright to silence them. If that’s not your argument, what bearing could your question possibly have? Your intentions are transparent.

    Part of me wants to reveal the fact that you use out-of-scope quantifiers to advance unknowable claims and strawman arguments, but such appears self-evident.

    No, no difficulties arise at all unless you are totally unfamiliar with US law. I already explained how suppression would violate the constitution as it applies here: speech does not have to be “religious” to be protected. It would also violate the idea of free expression on which the first amendment was based. What difficulties do you speak of? It’s as plain as day: the sign stays up unless you wish to violate civil liberties.

    Blather, blather. Okay, I’m convinced that you’re literate, but these I already knew. At any rate, my actual argument (you know, the one I was really advancing, as opposed to your incorrect and impolite caricature) was twofold:

    1) Atheists are the ones getting played in this whole fiasco,

    2) When public officials implied on record that your belief system was a religion, none of you said jack.

    That being said, I wonder whether you will,

    1) Extend the appropriate courtesy; or,

    2) Persist in revealing your own transparency by further strawmanning and denigrating somebody you think disagrees with you?

  • Virginia

    Lux Aeterna, apologies for the confusion. As a Chinese and travelling to Asia countries regularly, I can speak for a number of Asians. Singapore is quite unique and your observation is correct(I lived there in my teenage years) because it has that strong multi-cultural history since its independence (they have 4 major ethnic groups) and Premier Lee Kwong Yiu iron-fisted rule have kept the races in order. The scene back in China, Korea and even Japan is quite different — they are heavily influenced by Confucian thinking and a high desire to not offend but maintaining face — so the rule of thumb will be “follow the custom of a place if you are there” — it is not unusual that Christians are told to offer incense sticks at non-Christian rituals, and that non-Christians are expected to bow their heads — refusing to do so will draw unfavourable comments.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    Tither, and everyone,

    I responded to the criticisms of atheists here:

    http://theamericansentinel.com/2008/12/05/washington-atheist-sign-as-a-sign-of-the-times/

    I don’t know how to do the code to include it in my text, because I am a novice with computers, there’s where you can find my response.

  • http://panicon4july.blogspot.com/ Will E.

    Teleprompter, bravo! What a calm and thorough response to that utter wingnuttery. I went over to that site thinking I’d drop some reason on those folks, but I was disturbed, exhausted and nonplussed almost immediately. You are to be commended for wading into that shitstorm of vapidity and willful ignorance. Well done.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    As satisfying as it may be to argue with right-wing idiots on the internet, I urge you all to contact Governor Gregoire’s office by e-mail, letter or phone call first. Debating people whose minds are closed doesn’t accomplish anything. Standing up for atheism in the public eye does.

    Also, as regards this point from Vin and Lynet:

    That sign will do more to turn people away from out ‘side’ than any fire and brimstone preacher could. Surely another message could have been used.

    I disagree. The haters of the religious right will vilify us with equal fury no matter what we say, even if our message is mild as dishwater. In my last post on this topic, I wrote about another atheist group putting up billboards that simply said, “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” A less offensive message could not be imagined; all this is basically saying is, “Atheists exist.” And yet the response was indistinguishable from what’s happening in Olympia:

    The hate mail and nasty, threatening phone messages began almost immediately.

    Much of it has been directed at Joel Guttormson, who mostly has been serving as a spokesman for COCORE, as they call it.

    …Almost all of the feedback, he said, has been from people who say the billboards denigrate Christians.

    …John Matson, of Denver, was so mad after seeing the Santa Fe Drive sign that he dashed off an angry letter to the billboard’s owner.

    “It is a despicable act to allow that sign,” the 60-year-old man said in an interview, “and for just a few pieces of silver.”

    Similarly, when U.S. Representative Pete Stark came out as a nontheist – issuing nothing but a simple statement which affirmed that he does not believe in a supreme being – he was immediately accused by the religious right of “want[ing] to throttle any school child who bows his or her head in prayer”, wanting to “bash Christians and berate God around the clock”, and attempting to “intimidate and silence religious voices in public policy matters”.

    What the religious right really objects to is our existence, and they’ll attack us with equal viciousness regardless of what we say, so there’s no point in giving them any heed. We might as well take a firm, forthright stand and, yes, hit back with attacks of our own. We’ll win more sympathy for our cause if we show that we won’t be bullied than we will if we disarm in the face of their onslaught.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    Also, I did leave a message with Gov. Gregoire’s office by phone before I composed my response. So I agree with Ebonmouse.

    We all do need to contact Gov. Gregoire’s office and stand up for the 1st Amendment and for our rights.

  • Jim C.

    It seems to me the constitution, as has been pointed out in many ways, protects the sign. Unless I’ve overlooked something, the problem of the statement “having chosen to allow one religious display, cannot legally discriminate against others” is simply that I’ve read innumerable times on the atheiosphere that atheism IS NOT a religion. It is thus hypocrisy when defended by atheists as a protected religious speech. Like theists, we can’t have it both ways.

    Jim C.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    I think the point that people are trying to make is that non-religious speech is entitled to the same protection as religious speech, not that a sign placed on display by atheists counts as religious speech, and is therefore entitled to the same protection. The greater point seems to be that all speech that mentions religion should be protected. The FFRF’s sign does indeed mention religion, and therefore should fall under the broad category of “religious speech”, because the content of the sign criticizes religion, but the sign does not imply that atheism is a religion. I guess I see a distinction here between religious speech that merely mentions religion and religious speech that is directly, substantively affiliated with a religion. The point is that both should be protected under our Constitution.

    I may be completely wrong on this.

  • Justin

    I looked at the article on The American Sentinel site: I’ve never heard such epic ignorance. Teleprompter, you do us all a favor in responding to them. (Now if only the Sentinel regulars would put down their Bibles and read your response!)

    Back on topic…

    cl:

    Note that if you respond, “The FFRF’s sign is a display for the atheist religion,” difficulties arise.
    Note that if you respond, “The FFRF’s sign was not a religious display,” difficulties also arise.

    Not necessarily. Atheism is not a religion; it is a viewpoint on the existence of God. Maybe saying that makes it sound like a rhetorical evasion, but the entire issue is partly one of free speech anyway. Does the government have the right to restrict certain forms of speech and not others? (Yes, I know they can restrict speech based on potential or actual threat to someone’s life, but that has nothing to do with this case). If Christian groups can put up signs and nativity scenes, so can atheists.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    One could also say that atheism, while lacking the features traditionally considered part of the definition of a religion (no creed, no clergy, no holy books, no sacred rites, etc.) is equivalent to a religion in the legal sense. The government’s constitutional mandate against favoring or promoting religion obliges them to give equal time and access to atheists in any situation where those privileges are granted to religious groups.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Ebonmuse,

    Also, as regards this point from Vin and Lynet:

    That sign will do more to turn people away from out ‘side’ than any fire and brimstone preacher could. Surely another message could have been used.

    I disagree. The haters of the religious right will vilify us with equal fury no matter what we say, even if our message is mild as dishwater.

    In some ways I’m very glad that the haters of the religious right will vilify us with equal fury no matter what we say. This is, after all, free publicity for us. In fact, that’s why I think it’s not necessary to be incendiary. We can get all the benefits of the free publicity provided by the outrage and maximise our outreach to those who are actually reasonable by putting up much more innocuous messages. Overdoing our criticism of religion to the point of (I think) factual inaccuracy is a blatant missed opportunity. I don’t quite agree with Vin’s statement that the sign will necessarily turn people away from our cause, I just think that the inaccuracy of the overstatement makes this sign less than optimal.

    Like any good freethinker, I find it much easier to stand up for something that I believe to be unequivocally truthful. Religion does many things, hardening hearts and enslaving minds among them, but the use of that word ‘but’, as in ‘religion is but‘, pushes that sign out of the region of truthfulness as far as I’m concerned. I can support the right to say such things if you believe them to be true — but I can’t support the whole of the statement. It’s partially false. End of story.

  • TEP

    It clearly is religious speech, because it offers an opinion on religion. Freedom of religion means that people have the right to express any opinions they like about religions, including that religion is nonsense.

    If people have the right to say Christianity is really wonderful, then we have the right to say the opposite.

    Atheists have just as much right to have opinions on religious matters as Scientologists, Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Hellenists and Norse believers.

  • http://bridgingschisms.org Eshu

    “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” A less offensive message could not be imagined; all this is basically saying is, “Atheists exist.” And yet the response was indistinguishable from what’s happening in Olympia:

    It’s not that black and white!
    Let’s not assume that because the more extreme nut cases are hopping up and down blue with rage that all theists are angry about the more innocuous messages. They probably don’t feel strongly enough about it to make much noise over it. If a group of moderate theists thought that “Don’t believe in a god? You are not alone.” was a perfectly reasonable and honest message that made them see atheists in a new light, would we hear about it? I doubt it. Fundamentalists going blue in the face makes for more interesting (controversial) news. So it will always be reported in preference to religious moderates saying, “You know, these atheists seem alright and I can see their point.”

    In fact, by putting up an innocuous message in support of atheism you may divide opinion between the fundamentalists from the moderates. I’d rather have half of them hating us than all of them hating us.

    Despite what I said earlier, I do see Lynet’s point. Just to be clear – I am not denying our right to express such opinions, only the prudence of doing so. Surely there must come a point where everyone here would agree there are certain things we could put on a sign that would turn people off and hurt our cause yet still be broadly in favour of atheism?

  • Brad

    When public officials implied on record that your belief system was a religion, none of you said jack. [-cl]

    On the contrary, Gregoire and McKenna’s statement correctly identified the FRFF sign as “religious display” and “viewpoint,” not establishment of religion.

    I think the better route to have taken on this sign issue would just have been freedom of expression instead debating The Wall, although the debate may be somewhat instructive I admit.

    One could also say that atheism … is equivalent to a religion in the legal sense. [-EM]

    How so? The Supreme Court has tried to expand to more flexible conceptions of religion (United States v. Seeger, Welsh v. United States) but seems to retrace its steps (Wisconsin v. Yoder, Thomas v. Review Board).

  • Brad

    Surely there must come a point where everyone here would agree there are certain things we could put on a sign that would turn people off and hurt our cause yet still be broadly in favour of atheism? [-Eshu]

    Yes, but I don’t think this sign is one of those things. To be supported on a societal level, atheism must be demonstrated to have real potential in people’s hearts and minds, and so a practical level of fresh honesty is critical to the cause. To shy away from this kind of openness is to appease the pretense of weakness in atheism, which will be losing the opportunity to gain more people than would be lost in turning closed-minded folks only further away.

  • Virginia

    Surely there must come a point where everyone here would agree there are certain things we could put on a sign that would turn people off and hurt our cause yet still be broadly in favour of atheism? [-Eshu]
    You only told half the story — being assertive to a bunch people accustomed to bigotry will always causes such clashes.
    Our cause is to be listened and our rights be acknowledged, and our views get some attention — the signs are merely an assertive expression which those Christians are absolutely not accustomed to — and being taught by their church not to tolerate — that is nothing we can do to not turn them off except disappearing from the face of this earth!!

  • Virginia

    Or maybe we should adopt the light hearted approach, like this one
    http://exchristian.net/exchristian/2008/12/santa-claus-worshipers-decry.html

  • mikespeir
    That sign will do more to turn people away from out ‘side’ than any fire and brimstone preacher could. Surely another message could have been used.

    I disagree. The haters of the religious right will vilify us with equal fury no matter what we say, even if our message is mild as dishwater.

    Well, for the record, I agree with Vin. You’re right, Ebon: we will be vilified no matter what. But what are we being vilified for? For expressing a simple opinion or for being nasty? Theists love the kind of message expressed on this sign. It makes it so easy to dismiss what we have to say without having to consider it. “See? That’s how atheists are. Do you wanna be like that?”

  • Michael

    Since you will censor this message just to prove a point, even you sicko’s believe in censorship but not freedom of speech. Why can’t you except the fact your group is a minority in America and the majority would like to have our Celebration of Jesus’s birthday be a happy occasion not to be ruined by idiots such as yourself. Why can’t you have your sacrifices after Christmas when no one would object or even acknowledge you exist? How many people do you sacrifice each year? Do you only sacrifice young children or does any of your members qualify? Maybe if America has a better understanding of your cult we would be more compassionate towards you. Do you use a knife to kill your members or do you follow Jim Jones and have them drink from the cup o death? You do have the right under our Constitution to do your sacrifices and pagan dances, as a veteran I serviced and fought in foreign wars so you have that right. But since you don’t respect our rights to celebrate in what we believe in I dare you to post this message, but you are cowards just as you have proved time and time again in America so you won’t. You are afraid your people will learn the truth about your cult and leave it for Christianity.

  • Brook Keele

    I have just emailed Governor Gregoire and the following is the text of that email. I hope to get some feedback as to anyway I may have misspoken. Hopefully, you will all find it representative of the majority view.

    ——————————————————–
    Gov. Gregoire:

    I just wanted to tell you that as an atheist in America, I am very pleased the way you are handling the protests related to the posting of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s sign in your capitol building.

    I understand that the way you are handling it is not providing you any political benefits, but you are doing the right thing by taking a non-discrimination attitude.

    For what it is worth, there is a large number of atheists in this country, and some of us have taken notice of your fair-minded stance.

    Having said that, I think our larger goal is to have all religious material removed from any property which is funded by our tax dollars. We would rather see both displays removed than have some displayed.

    Thank you for your time and understanding.

    Sincerely,

    Brook Keele
    Des Moines, IA

    ————————————————————————–

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Is that you Poe’s Law?

  • http://panicon4july.blogspot.com/ Will E.

    You are afraid your people will learn the truth about your cult and leave it for Christianity.

    Ironic much?

  • Brad

    Michael, I’m assuming that was a joke? There is no Constituional right to sacrifice people, atheism isn’t a religious cult, isn’t psychopathology, … all right, you’re joking. ;)

  • Stryder

    It seems to me that religion in all its forms boils down to an expression of an idea (or opinion) about God. In expressing his beliefs, a Christian is saying (indirectly, at least) “I believe God exists, the Bible is His word, and the message of the Bible is that Christ died to save each of us from damnation.” An atheist expresses his belief on the very same subject by saying (more directly perhaps) “I don’t believe there is any evidence that a god exists or that the Bible is anything other than a collection of fairytales.” Both the manger scene and the athiest placard are expressing competing ideas on the same subject. I see no reason to draw a distinction between the two just because the Christian argument is made more indirectly using symbolism and narrative. It seems to me that freedom of religion should entail the right to express either a positive or a negative opinion regarding any particular belief.

    As far as the wording of the atheist message being offensive, it should be obvious that the Christian message that all non-Christians are fated for eternal damnation is no doubt offensive to many non-Christians, but I have no problem with their expressing that viewpoint in any public forum as long as they don’t assume monopoly control over a publicly-financed venue.

  • ex machina

    cl,

    Blather, blather. Okay, I’m convinced that you’re literate, but these I already knew. At any rate, my actual argument (you know, the one I was really advancing, as opposed to your incorrect and impolite caricature) was twofold:

    1) Atheists are the ones getting played in this whole fiasco,

    2) When public officials implied on record that your belief system was a religion, none of you said jack.

    But that’s only half of what you said. First off, I don’t think atheists are “getting played.” There’s every likelihood that the governor does not regard atheism as a religion, and said what she said only to imply that the atheist display needed equal protection, not that it was itself another religion (and most others on this forum understood it as such). Even if she did, her poor understanding of the issue wouldn’t mean much. The constitutional protection atheist speech enjoys (and the legal web involved) isn’t going to be rewritten due to one governor’s comments on a talk show. Nor would they be undone by whatever opinion I hold my atheism or the atheism of others.

    So if I respond, “The FFRF’s sign is a display for the atheist religion,” there are no difficulties. I will admit that my dislike for semantics may have lead me to a hasty dismissal. Maybe you really wanted to discuss all the words involved and did not mean to imply anything. When I see someone bring up someone’s words when those words wouldn’t really change the issue, I get suspicious that they’re trying to equivocate.

    As for the flipside, you didn’t seem to address this at all, and this is what really lead me to believe you were in favor of the suppression of the FFRF’s sign.

    If I choose to respond “The FFRF’s sign was not a religious display,” then, again, no difficulties arise, because non-religious speech is as protected as religious speech. So no, you didn’t say outright that the FFRF’s sign shouldn’t be protected because it’s not religious, but it’s the only point you could have been trying to make that fits your original posts. If you really meant only that atheism shouldn’t be referred to as a religion it doesn’t explain why the FFRF’s sign failing to be a religious display is important at all. What other explanation makes sense?

    1) Extend the appropriate courtesy; or,

    2) Persist in revealing your own transparency by further strawmanning and denigrating somebody you think disagrees with you?

    I still don’t know what you’re saying. You’ve told me that my interpretation is wrong and yours looks incomplete.

    And as for courtesy, I know it seems persuasive to tell me a telepathist and make sure I get “checked” and all that, but I don’t consider it sound argument. I really am interested in a straight answer: Do you support the governor’s decision? Why or why not? What bearing does the sign being a religious sign have to do with your opinion?

  • nfpendleton

    If cl cares to actually read the entire 1st Amendment, his sidetrack argument “is-it-is-or-is-it-ain’t-a-religion” pretty much evaporates:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Religious or not, all of the speech in question is protected. Neither expression seems to breach State-church seperation either, but to allow one but not all others is unlawful.

    Discussions of decorum and motivation are something completely different…

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    nfpendleton,

    If cl cares to actually read the entire 1st Amendment, his sidetrack argument “is-it-is-or-is-it-ain’t-a-religion” pretty much evaporates:

    Two telepathists in one thread? Really?

    Two things:

    1) Your assumption I’ve never read the entire 1st Amendment in its entirety, although likely included for snark or denigratory value, is a tad presumptuous among other things (such as incorrect).

    2) “is-it-is-or-is-it-ain’t-a-religion” isn’t my argument.

    So now what’s evaporated, but your lame strawman argument?

    ex machina,

    I still don’t know what you’re saying. You’ve told me that my interpretation is wrong and yours looks incomplete.

    Argh. You charged me with making a “..backhanded argument calling for the suppression of atheist speech,” and then called my style transparent. This is all the more comedic when we realize you were wrong. I was not arguing for the suppression of atheist speech. I say that’s total BS, not to mention poor logic, and rude.

    So Ebonmuse said to you,

    To be fair, ex machina, I don’t see any evidence that cl was calling for the suppression of atheist speech.

    If you still don’t see the problem after two people pointed it out, there’s not much I can do.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    In some ways I’m very glad that the haters of the religious right will vilify us with equal fury no matter what we say. This is, after all, free publicity for us. In fact, that’s why I think it’s not necessary to be incendiary. We can get all the benefits of the free publicity provided by the outrage and maximise our outreach to those who are actually reasonable by putting up much more innocuous messages.

    This is a fair point. However, there’s another consideration which I think your analysis, Lynet, doesn’t fully do justice to.

    Given the reach of the media, as well as the number of people who routinely visit the state capitol building in person, we can be confident that the number of people who saw this sign in person and made up their own minds about it is minuscule, compared to the number of people who heard about it through the prism of O’Reilly or some other right-wing source which seeks to pump up the listener’s outrage quotient. And this is true no matter what the message is.

    As I documented in an earlier comment, even innocuous messages will be met with apoplectic fury from the religious right. That reaction, rather than the message itself, is what most people – even most reasonable, “persuadable” people – are going to hear about. The traditional media, even if less explicitly partisan than windbags like O’Reilly, plays the same game with its obsessive need for “balance” and its reliance on overused stock narratives. Plenty of people who might not have thought twice about an atheist message they saw themselves will judge it far more negatively when they hear about it in an article that quotes local believers or national church leaders bemoaning how awful it is.

    In these circumstances, I think it’s more important just to get our message out. Of course, there is a line to be drawn. Some of you may have noticed the recent comment by an unpleasant character named Michael Nietzsche; be assured that I declined to approve several other comments by him that were far more offensive, and that in my opinion had no place in a civil discussion. But I don’t think the FFRF’s sign, strongly worded as it is, is anywhere near that level. In fact I think most of us here, if pressed, would agree with the FFRF’s statement or something very similar to it.

    If there’s a negative public perception of atheism, that’s a problem. But to my way of thinking, the way we overcome that perception isn’t by refraining from criticism of religion. On the contrary, we need our criticism to be heard loudly and often in order to demolish the abnormally thick layer of respect that’s heaped on religious beliefs – a crucial step if we’re to make any further progress. Rather, the way we improve our image is by affirming a positive vision of who we are and what we stand for, and that’s something that can coexist with strong criticism. In fact, I think the two complement each other: our message should be that we are good and moral people, and that is precisely why we are so outraged by the evils that are done in the name of religious belief.

  • http://rickybarnes1960.gaia.com/ Naumadd

    There may be some but little argument that, in the thinking and actions of all human beings, genuine fact and consistent reason ought to always be the standard, however, we must recognize that not all human beings think and behave in these ways consistently. We must always be free for rebuttal of any word or deed but all must be free to express themselves in the best ways they are able. We are not obliged to agree with other philosophies and their practices, but we must at least be tolerant of those we disagree with as we attempt to peacefully convince them of their errors. Our government has already taken an explicit side in the argue between reason and unreason – reason prevails. Reason, for the most part, is written in our U.S. Constitution and, perhaps more often than not, in the laws which follow from it. We as a nation decided that unreason would not have a place in our culture if it was at all possible to prevent it. One cannot rightly argue tolerance for the placement of one’s beliefs and traditions on publicly-owned properties while at the same time arguing for intolerance of rebuttal to those beliefs and practices UNLESS one’s intention is to be contradictory in thought and action.

    To be intentionally contradictory in one’s request for tolerance is irrational, unconstitutional and unamerican in spirit.

    Right of to free speech, right to freedom of religion does not include right to freedom from skepticism, critique or rebuttal. Freedom of your own ideas must include freedom of opposing ideas, otherwise, one’s freedom and one’s claims of respect for it is a sham.

  • Valhar2000

    Thank you, Michael, thank you for writing that screed, and for making the particularly imbecillic bet that it would not be posted even if you dared Ebonmuse to post it. Where others would have faltered and doubted, you had vision and persistent will, and marhced forthright into idiocy.

    Nothing I could write; indeed, I beleive, nothing any of the commenters here could write, would have so adequately showcased the sheer lunatic idiocy, arrogant proud ignorance and paranoid paralyzing fear of the unknown that characterizes modern american fundamentalism. You trully are a boon to our cause.

    I take my hat off (or would if I were waring one), and stand in humble awe of your gift of disjointed apoplectic expression, of the economy and subtlety with which you use our common language to transplant into the reader’s mind the life-altering nuttery of your worldview, the finesse with which you misspell words and mangle grammar to bring to your audience’s mind a sense of the wallowing, careless, unthinking ignorance, and the credulous acceptance of tired transparent clichés, in which your ideology finds it’s most fertile ground.

    Words fail me, Michael, the really do. Nothing I can say will do justice to your achievement.

  • Lux Aeterna

    I have watched some of O’reilly’s show on youtube and he is appalling. He cuts people off in mid speech by raising his voice and insistently droning on. I’ve seen him do this to several interviewees. He only cares on making his point. Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IwIRNM5noY

  • ex machina

    Argh. You charged me with making a “..backhanded argument calling for the suppression of atheist speech,” and then called my style transparent. This is all the more comedic when we realize you were wrong. I was not arguing for the suppression of atheist speech. I say that’s total BS, not to mention poor logic, and rude.

    You know, I really did try explain why I thought what I did, and reacted the way I did. . . Would it help if I told you that you’re good at being scathing? You are, and I’m not trying to be nasty or anything, I’m serious. But I was pretty clear about why I thought what I did, and I’m met with another nasty non-answer.

    So Ebonmuse said to you,

    To be fair, ex machina, I don’t see any evidence that cl was calling for the suppression of atheist speech.

    If you still don’t see the problem after two people pointed it out, there’s not much I can do.

    I understand that your perception is that everyone thinks I don’t have a leg to stand on. That’s fine, but I don’t share that perception, and I wouldn’t be convinced even everyone else did. Since a couple people now have made the same assumptions about your argument, I think it would help if you clarified yourself.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    First of all,

    and I’m met with another nasty non-answer.

    Nasty, lame, strawman attacks clearly motivated by the desire to belittle deserve nothing less. Of course, you’re not obligated to apologize but far too often folks forget the human factor in these types of things.

    Would it help if I told you that you’re good at being scathing?

    No, and in context it’s actually a compliment, so thanks. Such was my point and purely a matter of style. Nothing personal, I just can’t stand for irrationality or non-reason. My time is too precious. Pre-emptively, ‘irrationality’ and ‘non-reason’ as used above refer to baseless, rude charges based on classic strawman misunderstanding.

    I’m not trying to be nasty or anything..

    Well no, not anymore. The tone of your first comment, however, is a bit, how should we put it? Perhaps, scathing is a suitable rudiment?

    I understand that your perception is that everyone thinks I don’t have a leg to stand on…

    No, my stated perception was that at least Ebonmuse and myself thought such, so add this to your collection of strawmen.

    Since a couple people now have made the same assumptions about your argument, I think it would help if you clarified yourself.

    People can and do assume whatever they wish as you’ve already sufficiently established, but here’s what you or anyone else who’s made an assumption about ‘my argument’ still doesn’t see. The comment of mine you initially replied to contained no argument. Other than claims relating to your breaches of cogency, I’ve made no arguments here. You posited an insultingly vapid argument on my behalf that was not my argument, IOW, a strawman. Are you blind, prideful or forgetful? I originally asked a question – a single, solitary question – all in the effort to see how various people would respond. Since when is a question an argument? Hmmm.. when rephrased as such?

    Now, I did say I felt atheists were getting played in this whole fiasco, and I did say that I was surprised that no atheists here took issue with the slippery wording employed by the governor and/or the attorney general. The former is subjective opinion entirely, the latter a mere observation.

    So aside from the aforementioned stipulations, what argument have I made? Or is your claim that I made an argument incorrect?

  • markmier

    “This isn’t an argument, it’s just contradiction.”

    “No it isn’t.”

    :p

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Nice try markmier.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    You knew this was coming: guess who else is now requesting permission to post a sign in Olympia.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Friggin’ awesome.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention and making it so easy to contact the governor. My e-mail can be found at Atheist Revolution.

  • Mathew Wilder

    I must say, “Santa Claus will send you to hell” would be friggin’ hilarious. I hope it gets put up!

  • ex machina

    cl,

    No, your question did not constitute an argument by itself, but questions don’t happen in a vacuum. My assumption that you were attempting to establish grounds to take down the sign could be wrong, for sure, but your response didn’t tell me I was wrong, and your next response was incomplete and unconvincing for reasons I’ve already explained.

    You either didn’t read my comments, or don’t understand them, or don’t care. Admit what you think, and defend it, or admit you misspoke. Or just say you’d rather not talk about it. I’d respect that, but this dance of namecalling you’ve got going isn’t impressing me and repeating myself is getting tiring.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    ex machina,

    but this dance of namecalling you’ve got going isn’t impressing me and repeating myself is getting tiring.

    Ah, I see. That I’ve got going. It takes two to debate last time I checked. There are options to repeating yourself that would motivate me to stop repeating myself and as far as namecalling, did not your first comment to me call the name of backhanded? Yes or no?

    Admit what you think, and defend it, or admit you misspoke.

    Chutzpah. Was it not you who misspoke by seeing my question, noting it was not an atheist asking it, then assuming incorrectly that said non-atheist was “making a backhanded argument calling for the suppression of atheist speech,” and misspoke thus? Yes or no?

    I didn’t misspeak for FSM’s sake. I asked a question because I was curious to see how different people would answer. Most atheists contend atheism is not a religion. I was surprised nobody took note of the governor / AG’s slippery language. That’s it. No more, no less. You went all ahead in your brain and fabricated this whole assault on free speech that simply does and did not exist. When told directly that you were wrong by myself and our host, instead of just being like, “Oh I made a mistake I’m sorry to have accused you of that,” you continue to equivocate:

    My assumption that you were attempting to establish grounds to take down the sign could be wrong, but your response didn’t tell me I was wrong..

    Now you choose to base your claims on willful ignorance or outright lies. Again you are incorrect, but if you want to shout it out to the world that’s your thing. Contrary, my first response to you told you in plain language that you were wrong:

    Ha! It’s good to try and see where people are going with their arguments and all, but in this case you’re way ahead of yourself – and wrong. (cl, December 9, 2008, 6:37 pm)

    Note the bold. No, it was and is you who were in the wrong. I told you. Ebonmuse implied such in a roundabout way. Yet you persist.

    Or just say you’d rather not talk about it. I’d respect that,

    What you don’t seem to get is that per your initial disrespect, I have nothing further to say to you. If you can’t admit you were in the wrong to charge me as you did, that’s fine, but I’d respect you if you could just say outright that you were wrong instead of end-running cheesy equivocations based on demonstrable falsehoods.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    If the tax-paying, American atheists want to create a holiday for themselves based on their worship of reason or nature or whatever, that’s fine, and even commendable. However, does this mean that those without faith retain the right to insult those with faith, in a government building, in a public context of seasonal celebration?

    Hardly, and I think the sign should be either reworded or removed because I don’t support state-sponsored attacks on religion.

    While it is beyond my expertise to accurately judge the Constitutional legality of the Olympia sign, legal expertise is not necessary to see that the sign is incredibly immature and in horrible taste. Who respects that bratty kid who constantly reminds you of the fact he’s allowed to cuss you out just because he’s over 18?

    Hatemongering, insulting, derisive groups masquerading as Christian don’t give atheist groups the moral highground to be hatemongering, insulting and derisive. As you correctly note about many fundies, tact and basic human respect would really help your cause. If I were atheist, I would be very troubled by this sign, because it essentially affirms the standard atheist stereotypes.

    The results? A time intended for human celebrations of love and unity has again been transformed into a politically expedient morass of insolence, intolerance, and sheer stupidity, while critics your critics like John Ray are now inundated with more fodder with which to rally:

    Clearly, the atheists concerned are just Leftist haters and spewing their hate against Christians is the only thing that really matters to them. They clearly have no interest in winning friends and influencing people.

    What I’m getting at is that you should seek to outshine the bigots – not descend into their ranks. To a significant number of people, including some atheists, this Pyrrhic victory makes atheists look so desperate and so selfish that they are perfectly willing to insult and spread subjective lies in order to get their point across. The FFRF sign contains denigrating insults that are not an essential part of its exposition of ideas, explicit points of view that constitute debate, and it is certainly not our government’s place to promote or conduct religious debate now, is it?

    Atheism has officially endorsed the nefarious tactics once reserved for the most intolerant of religiously bigoted groups. We can blog about our beliefs until the sun comes up, but state-sponsored, mean-spirited attacks should be illegal for all belief systems to display.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I fail to see how the sign is hateful, insulting, or derogatory. Note that the statement is aimed at religion, not religious people.

    Further, if you believe that it’s “not our government’s place to promote or conduct religious debate” then you hopefully don’t support the nativity scene either, or any of the other holiday displays?

  • lpetrich

    Also, cl, may I remind you about what Jesus Christ taught about treating one’s enemies. He taught that you ought to *love* your enemies, not hate them, and he certainly did not demand that one ought to whine all day about how mean they are.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I don’t see the FFRF as cl’s enemy, however. The FFRF is making a statement for freedom from religion, which benefits all of us. Unless we secure all of our rights, then none of our rights are safe from those who would seek to usurp them. When the government allows one particular religion to advertize, it takes away all of our rights, even if you happen to believe in the religion being advertized.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    OMGF,

    ..hopefully (you) don’t support the nativity scene either, or any of the other holiday displays? (paren. mine)

    Presuming no Nazi signs (or similar) have been installed, I actually support them all, including the FFRF’s (although I feel it should be reworded if it is to stay). There is certainly a difference between Constitutionally protected religious expression and state-sponsored attacks on religion.

    In a related context, delivering his opinion on Sherbert, Justice Brennan cited Braunfeld v. Brown and notes, “[i]f the purpose or effect of a law is to impede the observance of one or all religions or is to discriminate invidiously between religions, that law is constitutionally invalid even though the burden may be characterized as being only indirect.”

    I agree with Justice Brennan.

    Ipetrich,

    How does calling the FFRF sign a mean-spirited attack entail that I do not love my enemies? Such is classic slippery slope argumentation. As OMGF points out, who are my enemies? I actually believe that in this context, the FFRF is your enemy.

    Also. If you knew me at all as a person there is no way you would judge me like that. However, since you don’t know me as a person, and all you have to go off of are the comments I make here, and those in the light of every and any other inane non-atheist, I realize I’m just another in a long line of non-atheists to come to DA, so I don’t really expect that anyone here would think anything different.

    What I’m saying is that your oversight is easily understandable and forgivable.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Why no Nazi signs? Why do you feel the FFRF sign should be reworded? If we are to keep all the signs, what is to keep everyone from having a sign for their particular religious interpretation? How will the government house all these signs?

    There is certainly a difference between Constitutionally protected religious expression and state-sponsored attacks on religion.

    Let’s not forget state-sponsored endorsement of religion, like putting nativity scenes on government property.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    OMGF,

    As far as the Nazi signs, I’m unaware of any Nazi holiday structure, but I suppose it would depend on their hypothetical wording. I said that only because to say, “I think all the signs should stay” is potentially dangerous. I would be speaking in ignorance because I don’t know what other signs people have put up, or what they might say.

    I feel the FFRF sign should be reworded because it contains explicit insults that are not part of the necessary exposition of ideas. The sign went beyond religious expression to an attack on religion. I do not support state-sponsored or state-endorsed attacks on religion.

    Let’s not forget state-sponsored endorsement of religion, like putting nativity scenes on government property.

    It’s not that cut-and-dry of an issue, at least according to legal precedents. There are so many variables and in its emotional appeals, the OP leaves quite a bit unanswered. For example, there are two types of religious displays: Those paid for with taxpayer dollars and those paid for with private dollars, but erected on government property. Neither are inherently unconstitutional, and both can be displayed on public property. The primary point of difference is that the former must include secular elements. It is also a common position that all instances of the latter should be accompanied by a disclaimer.

    The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Lynch v. Donnelly (1983) that the city of Pawtucket could continue to display a nativity scene as part of its Christmas display. The Supreme Court also ruled in Capitol Square Review Board v. Pinette (1995) that a KKK cross on public grounds would not give the impression of government endorsement and, hence, is not a violation of the separation of church and state.

    Now, did the Olympia nativity scene contain any secular elements? I believe it did. Hence, it is constitutional. Check the plastic reindeer doctrine. The Supreme Court has never ruled that all nativity scenes or menorahs constitute endorsement of religion.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I feel the FFRF sign should be reworded because it contains explicit insults that are not part of the necessary exposition of ideas. The sign went beyond religious expression to an attack on religion. I do not support state-sponsored or state-endorsed attacks on religion.

    Is it OK to have a sign supporting religion but not OK to have a sign attacking religion?

    For example, there are two types of religious displays: Those paid for with taxpayer dollars and those paid for with private dollars, but erected on government property.

    Three types…those paid for by private dollars and erected on private property.

    True, the issue is thorny, but I think this situation shows the folly that our legal system has gotten itself into by trying to toe the line. You have judges that want to allow religious displays because they don’t understand separation of church and state, which puts the state in a rather awkward position. Now, in order to be fair, they have to allow all religious expressions, including those of Fred Phelps, the Pastafarians, etc. How will you fit all of those expressions on government property without alienating anyone? Where is the festivus pole? Where is the monument to Mithras? The only way for the government to be truly fair is to remain neutral, which means not including religious displays, even if they do have reindeer.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    OMGF,

    I implied your third class of sign in my first. Sorry if such was unclear.

    Is it OK to have a sign supporting religion but not OK to have a sign attacking religion?

    Provide the following definitions and I’ll take a stab at that:

    1) OK

    2) sign

    3) supporting

    4) religion

    The only way for the government to be truly fair is to remain neutral..

    I agree with you completely, but I question your definition of neutrality:

    ..which means not including religious displays, even if they do have reindeer.

    To me, neutrality simply means not preferring any one over any other. It means if we decree that talking in class is permissible in a certain manner and context, that if Jimmy wants to talk in class in said manner and context, then Jimmy can talk in class. If Jenny wants to talk in class in said manner and context, then Jenny retains the right to do so as well.

    Either all bona fide religions should be allowed to express themselves freely, or none.

    Tangentially, religious groups should put their displays on their own properties, IMO. As I said and you seem to concur with, unhealthy accommodationism can certainly breach both law and logic.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Provide the following definitions and I’ll take a stab at that:

    Or, you could simply explain your previous comment that I was addressing, and I think you know what I was asking.

    To me, neutrality simply means not preferring any one over any other.

    And, the only way to do that is to not give any religion a soapbox.

    Either all bona fide religions should be allowed to express themselves freely, or none.

    You mean all religions and non-religions, right? Again, how will you ensure that all religions will get to express themselves when they all come forward to ask for equal space?

    Tangentially, religious groups should put their displays on their own properties, IMO. As I said and you seem to concur with, unhealthy accommodationism can certainly breach both law and logic.

    I do concur that religious groups should use their own property to display their religions. I actually fail to see any compelling reason for the government to endorse a religion (over other religions or over non-religion) by providing a space for them to put up things like nativity scenes, even with any secular content.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    OMGF,

    Or, you could simply explain your previous comment that I was addressing, and I think you know what I was asking.

    This is the comment of mine you were addressing:

    I feel the FFRF sign should be reworded because it contains explicit insults that are not part of the necessary exposition of ideas. The sign went beyond religious expression to an attack on religion. I do not support state-sponsored or state-endorsed attacks on religion.

    You then asked,

    Is it OK to have a sign supporting religion but not OK to have a sign attacking religion?

    Your question assumes I agree that a sign supporting religion exists in the state capitol building in Washington, and it assumes we agree on what constitutes support of religion. Without definitions, such is fruitless. I’m not trying to evade you. Provide the defs and I’m down to get down.

    And, the only way to do that is to not give any religion a soapbox.

    I’m okay with our disagreement there.

    You mean all religions and non-religions, right?

    No, I mean all religions.

    Again, how will you ensure that all religions will get to express themselves when they all come forward to ask for equal space?

    In theory it’s pretty easy. If you’re a bona fide religion and your holiday display meets the Supreme Court criteria and precedents, then it’s a go. If you’re not a bona fide religion, and/or your sign doesn’t meet Supreme Court criteria, then no go. In practice, such could possibly become a burden to the people. As you note, come one religion means come all religions.

    I actually fail to see any compelling reason for the government to endorse a religion (over other religions or over non-religion) by providing a space for them to put up things like nativity scenes, even with any secular content.

    Well good, I’ll interpret this to mean you don’t support the FFRF sign being in the Washington state capitol, because if the above is true, it follows logically that you should equally fail to see any compelling reason for the government to endorse non-religion over religion, with things like insulting, anti-religious signs.

    I don’t, hence my opinion the sign should be reworded or removed, or both of the displays should be removed.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    cl

    Without definitions, such is fruitless. I’m not trying to evade you. Provide the defs and I’m down to get down.

    It’s a straight-forward question, and the rest of your comment answered it for me.

    No, I mean all religions.

    You can’t have freedom of religion without freedom from religion. Your stance can lead to the sorts of rights abuses where one is free to choose any religion, so long as one chooses at least one religion – a la the boy scouts.

    In theory it’s pretty easy. If you’re a bona fide religion and your holiday display meets the Supreme Court criteria and precedents, then it’s a go. If you’re not a bona fide religion, and/or your sign doesn’t meet Supreme Court criteria, then no go. In practice, such could possibly become a burden to the people. As you note, come one religion means come all religions.

    It already is a burden in Olympia. And, I fail to see how the Supreme Court has the right to rule on what is or is not a religion. I have just formed a new religion that has as a central tenet that we have to place religious displays anytime there is another religious display, or else my god will become furiously angry and will send hurricanes our way during hurricane season. And, additionally, since my god is jealous, he demands that the display to him dwarf all other displays by being at least ten times the size. Let’s see the Wash. State government building fit that.

    Well good, I’ll interpret this to mean you don’t support the FFRF sign being in the Washington state capitol, because if the above is true, it follows logically that you should equally fail to see any compelling reason for the government to endorse non-religion over religion, with things like insulting, anti-religious signs.

    Both right and wrong. I don’t support the sign from the standpoint that no displays should be there to begin with. Once the state opens the door, they have to accept all religious speech, which becomes a burden on the state and the citizens. The only way to stay neutral and not open these cans of worms is to not open the door to any, since someone will always be left out and the uproar and subsequent fall-out will be an issue, as it already is. Since the gov. did open the door and let the nativity scene in, they have to allow the sign that is critical of religion. Religion doesn’t get a blank check to say/do what they want without criticism.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    OMGF,

    IMO it wasn’t a straight-forward question, but loaded to the brim. A loaded question occurs a question presupposes something that has not been accepted by everybody involved. I don’t know how you define the pertinent terms, but I would bet every cent I have that we define them differently. There is no sense arguing from two separate definitive contexts.

    I said I did not approve of state-sponsored or state-endorsed attacks on religion. You asked if I support state-sponsored or state-endorsed support of religion. I don’t, and it’s not special pleading, because the Olympia nativity scene is not “support” of religion. I’m betting you feel it is, which is why I asked for your defs.

    I do support the rights of religious expression that this country fought for, and I do think religious folk should put their displays on religious grounds, if nothing else to abide by that scripture which asks believers to take all means to live at peace with others.

    It already is a burden in Olympia.

    I would say it’s a burden to the nation. If Gregoire decided to pull them both I would applaud right alongside you. In fact, if you want to co-author a letter, I’m down. I think it would be quite impressive to receive a letter from a (presumed) atheist and a non-atheist, both in at least partial agreement.

    You can’t have freedom of religion without freedom from religion.

    I disagree strongly. Our freedom of religion protects our freedom from religion.

    I fail to see how the Supreme Court has the right to rule on what is or is not a religion.

    Me too, because I didn’t say the Supreme Court had the right to rule on what is or is not a religion. I said the Supreme Court retains the right to decide whether and when a holiday sign constitutes an endorsement of religion. Two different things, right?

    I have just formed a new religion that has as a central tenet that we have to place religious displays anytime there is another religious display, or else my god will become furiously angry and will send hurricanes our way during hurricane season.

    If you “just formed” your religion, then it is not bona fide for legal purposes. Have you filled out your 501(c)3 application yet? Written your necessary articles? There is a legal definition of a religion, and the ability of any person off the street to make up their own religion does not establish it as such for legal purposes. The legal definitions and administrative hoops necessary to form a bona fide religion exist to avoid precisely these types of problems.

    The only way to stay neutral and not open these cans of worms is to not open the door to any..

    In general, I tend to disagree with black-and-whites. I disagree here as well.

    ..since someone will always be left out and the uproar and subsequent fall-out will be an issue..

    Slippery sloper. It may become an issue, and every year it seems there are at least a handful of them, but the vast majority of communities with holiday displays erected on public property never experience the mess at all. You *seem* to propose an across-the-board on behalf of the minority of examples.

    Once the state opens the door, they have to accept all religious speech..

    Correct, and until closed they have to accept all religious displays from bona fide religions that do not constitute endorsement of religion per Supreme Court precedents.

    ..which becomes a burden on the state and the citizens.

    Slippery sloper. That it can and at times does become a burden on the state and citizens does not entail that it always will become a burden on the state and citizens.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    cl, these guys are right, you are an idiot sometimes…

    If you’re a bona fide religion and your holiday display meets the Supreme Court criteria and precedents, then it’s a go. If you’re not a bona fide religion, and/or your sign doesn’t meet Supreme Court criteria, then no go.

    The privilege to erect a holiday display should *not* be limited to bona fide religions, but any display erected should *certainly* respect Supreme Court precedents.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    …the Olympia nativity scene is not “support” of religion.

    I don’t see how it could be interpreted in any other context. The government is allowing a specific religion to display and advertize itself on government property.

    I disagree strongly. Our freedom of religion protects our freedom from religion.

    That’s not disagreement. All I’m saying (and other atheists) is that the clause “freedom of religion” must necessarily entail freedom from religion or else it is not true freedom.

    Two different things, right?

    Yes. Understood now.

    In general, I tend to disagree with black-and-whites. I disagree here as well.

    I normally don’t like black and white either, but in this case it fits. How will you open to door to some and not discriminate? How will you open the door to all and logistically permit it? How will you open the door to all without discriminating against those that choose “none of the above?”

    Slippery sloper. It may become an issue, and every year it seems there are at least a handful of them, but the vast majority of communities with holiday displays erected on public property never experience the mess at all. You *seem* to propose an across-the-board on behalf of the minority of examples.

    Someone is always left out, whether it becomes an uproar or not. Even if it doesn’t, that doesn’t excuse the infringement on people’s rights.

    Slippery sloper. That it can and at times does become a burden on the state and citizens does not entail that it always will become a burden on the state and citizens.

    Because it is impossible to accommodate all, someone’s rights will always be trampled upon. This means that a burden to the people and the state will always entail.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    OMGF,

    The real entity that bears responsibility in all of this is the Supreme Court. All they’ve done in the past few decades is hand down a series of completely contradictory and ambiguous decisions.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” (from 1st Amendment)

    How are religious displays situated for secular purposes in a federal building tantamount to a “law respecting an establishment of religion?” Does Washington state or the city of Olympia have any law that entails respect in Christianity? When does a decorated coniferous tree become a Christmas tree? With the addition of ornaments? Tinsel? Star on top?

    The government is allowing a specific religion to display and advertize itself on government property.

    But they’re not. There is a difference between a Christmas tree or holiday tree or menorah or nativity scene etc. etc. It is a difference that the Supreme Court has set precedent for. Lynch v. Donnelly, 1984 established that purely secular purposes for installing nativity scenes are possible. As far as Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU, the conclusion was that acknowledgment of Christmas as a cultural phenomenon is permissible and constitutionally protected, but observance of Christmas through suggestions that we “praise God for the birth of Jesus Christ” or similar are in breach of the Establishment Clause. I’m not being rude, but you seriously don’t think there is a difference?

    All I’m saying (and other atheists) is that the clause “freedom of religion” must necessarily entail freedom from religion or else it is not true freedom.

    Then I misunderstood you, and we’re in agreement here.

    Because it is impossible to accommodate all, someone’s rights will always be trampled upon.

    I disagree. Say you’re an artist and a particular gallery has asked you to show your work, or maybe you asked them. Are your rights trampled on if you fail to meet their requirements?

    I normally don’t like black and white either, but in this case it fits.

    Well, again, that’s subjective, and my argument to that goes something like this. Per people’s tendency on any side to whine, I think your argument has a grain of truth in that an across-the-board ban may in theory provide the least conflict. Sure, if public areas refrained from any holiday ornamentation, we wouldn’t have debates over municipal holiday displays, but then again, the notion of democracy is to procure the maximum amount of individual liberty alongside the minimum amount of individual or collective privation.

    An across-the-board ban sacrifices liberty for comfort and convenience; such is anti-democratic to its very core, IMO.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    The real entity that bears responsibility in all of this is the Supreme Court. All they’ve done in the past few decades is hand down a series of completely contradictory and ambiguous decisions.

    They bear at least some of the responsibility (actually, not just the SCOTUS, but other courts as well) in that they’ve been too wishy washy to follow the law in regards to religion and the first amendment.

    How are religious displays situated for secular purposes in a federal building tantamount to a “law respecting an establishment of religion?”

    Because it is endorsement. Whether it is endorsement of Xianity is particular or endorsement of religion in general, it is in violation of the first amendment (and 14th in the case of states) prohibition on government actions.

    But they’re not. There is a difference between a Christmas tree or holiday tree or menorah or nativity scene etc. etc. It is a difference that the Supreme Court has set precedent for. Lynch v. Donnelly, 1984 established that purely secular purposes for installing nativity scenes are possible.

    It’s a bad decision. What secular purpose is there in a nativity scene? It’s pretty obvious that it’s a religious symbol and hence it violates the separation of church and state when the government displays it.

    I disagree. Say you’re an artist and a particular gallery has asked you to show your work, or maybe you asked them. Are your rights trampled on if you fail to meet their requirements?

    Completely different situation. If I own a gallery, I’m a private owner and I have no requirement to display anyone’s artwork. When I’m the government, I have certain restrictions on what I can and can’t do.

    Sure, if public areas refrained from any holiday ornamentation, we wouldn’t have debates over municipal holiday displays, but then again, the notion of democracy is to procure the maximum amount of individual liberty alongside the minimum amount of individual or collective privation.

    An across-the-board ban sacrifices liberty for comfort and convenience; such is anti-democratic to its very core, IMO.

    Remember that we are talking about an across the board ban for the government only. When the government refrains from taking sides, it actually leads to maximal individual liberty. We aren’t sacrificing liberty by upholding the first amendment – far from it. By allowing some religions to be endorsed, we are actually sacrificing everyone’s liberty to believe as they want to believe.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Because it is endorsement. Whether it is endorsement of Xianity is particular or endorsement of religion in general, it is in violation of the first amendment (and 14th in the case of states) prohibition on government actions.

    You keep saying that, but I disagree, and so do the courts.

    It’s a bad decision. What secular purpose is there in a nativity scene? It’s pretty obvious that it’s a religious symbol and hence it violates the separation of church and state when the government displays it.

    Well, run for judge! Christmas is recognized and has heritage as a secular cultural phenomenon, not just a religious holiday. Again, when is a conifer a Christmas tree? When do nativity scenes constitute endorsement?

    Completely different situation. If I own a gallery, I’m a private owner and I have no requirement to display anyone’s artwork. When I’m the government, I have certain restrictions on what I can and can’t do.

    Sorry about that. I meant to add the quantifier that the gallery was government-supported, as in Rembrandt paintings hanging in a gallery that receives funding from the government. Incidentally, do you equally feel Halloween decorations showing devils are endorsements of religion?

    When the government refrains from taking sides, it actually leads to maximal individual liberty.

    There are instances where this is true and false and I reject dogma.

    We aren’t sacrificing liberty by upholding the first amendment – far from it.

    I agree..

    By allowing some religions to be endorsed, we are actually sacrificing everyone’s liberty to believe as they want to believe.

    I disagree, and again the statement is loaded, because I’ve not agreed that a creche or menorah or decorated conifer constitutes endorsement of religion, right? Neither have our highest courts. I asked you specifically when a decorated conifer became a Christmas tree, and now you’re asking me to elevate your opinion above that of several independent Supreme Court decisions.

    By allowing some religions to be endorsed, we are actually sacrificing everyone’s liberty to believe as they want to believe.

    Again, when do any of these things constitute endorsement? Surely you can’t expect me to just accept your opinion as truth. Do you have some kind of rational standard?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    The rational standard is this:

    By allowing religious symbols on government land, the government is providing space, time, real estate, whatever, for the promotion of a specific religion. When a nativity scene is placed on government property, the religion that corresponds with that symbol is given tacit approval by the government both to the benefit of that religion and the detriment of all other religions and non-religions. This un-necessarily entangles government and religion by creating a de facto government endorsement of a religious message.

    Christmas is recognized and has heritage as a secular cultural phenomenon, not just a religious holiday. Again, when is a conifer a Christmas tree? When do nativity scenes constitute endorsement?

    The government is unable to separate the religious from the secular (it’s only considered secular because the majority of the country is Xian BTW). So, nativity scenes always constitute endorsement as do conifers when placed in such a way as to celebrate the season, since the conifers have been used by religious entities for much longer than this country has been around.

    Sorry about that. I meant to add the quantifier that the gallery was government-supported, as in Rembrandt paintings hanging in a gallery that receives funding from the government. Incidentally, do you equally feel Halloween decorations showing devils are endorsements of religion?

    Halloween is not government sponsored. Xmas, however, is – gov. workers get Xmas off. As to the gallery, it’s still a separate issue when not dealing specifically with religion. Religion is specifically called out in the first amendment and was specifically called out in Jefferson’s “wall of separation.”

    There are instances where this is true and false and I reject dogma.

    I figured you would know that I meant that the government should refrain from taking sides on the issue that we are specifically discussing, and not in general. And, no it is not dogma. And, as a Xian, you do not reject all dogma. Now, before you jump on me, I’m not going to discuss it further.

    Finally, I’ve already mentioned that I feel SCOTUS doesn’t go far enough. We have seen a trend, however, in separating religion and government more and more as the years go along. My hope is that we will see more and more separation and more and more decisions handed down that actually follow the separation that was clearly meant in the original bill of rights.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    I found the following from President Obama’s speech delivered at the National Prayer Breakfast 2-5-2009 and I immediately thought of OMGF’s opinion that zero religious / irreligious expression should be tolerated in public settings:

    There is no doubt that the very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same. We read from different texts. We follow different edicts. We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we’re going next — and some subscribe to no faith at all.

    The goal of this office [Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships] will not be to favor one religious group over another — or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state. This work is important, because whether it’s a secular group advising families facing foreclosure or faith-based groups providing job-training to those who need work, few are closer to what’s happening on our streets and in our neighborhoods than these organizations. People trust them. Communities rely on them. And we will help them. (President Obama, bold mine)

    I’m with the President, and I think the argument that “someone will always be left out” is a presumptuous, intolerant, slippery slope argument.


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