In New Orleans, on the anniversary for Hurriance Katrina, a prayer service was planned in the city. An atheist objected to this. At this point, you’re thinking “Big surprise. An atheist tried to ruin everyone else’s celebration.”
But that wasn’t the case at all. The atheist in question, Harry Greenberger, wanted to be included in the ceremony. It’s not like atheists were spared by the disaster. Plus, he is a local leader, as he’s the president of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association.
He sent an email to the event contact person… and got no response. The contact forwarded the email to the event planner, but Greenberger still got no response. He finally sent an email to Mayor Ray Nagin. Nothing happened.
Finally, Larry Bagneris, director of New Orleans’ Human Relations Commission responded to him: He wasn’t welcome.
Obviously, there are state-church issues here. The city should not be sponsoring a prayer event. And if it wants to have a remembrance ceremony based on belief systems, then all those who want to participate should be allowed to, including the non-religious. Since that wasn’t happening, Greenberger contacted the ACLU.
Take a guess at what the headlines said. They mostly referred to the atheist and the ACLU “prompting prayer service changes“… nothing about discrimination or intolerance.
Of course, Greenberger was in the right and before the lawsuit went to court, the city allowed him to be a part of the service– he was allowed to “do Secular Humanist Reflections.”
Good for Harry. And good for New Orleans. I’d like to say they came to their senses, but even if they just accepted him out of fear of the lawsuit, they at least did the right thing.
I don’t understand why remembering the victims of Katrina has to be such a polarizing issue, though….
[tags]Harry Greenberger, New Orleans, Katrina, New Orleans Secular Humanist Association, Ray Nagin, Larry Bagneris, ACLU[/tags]