Rob Sherman 2.0

Activist Rob Sherman is suing Illinois’ Governor Rod Blagojevich (among others) because he authorized a $1,000,000 grant to rebuild Chicago’s Pilgrim Baptist Church — a church destroyed by fire over two years ago.

Sherman is arguing this is a clear violation of separation of church and state, though the government says they are simply helping fund the rebuilding of the secular portions of the church — like an office and daycare center. Sherman says there’s no way to really distinguish these things from the religious purposes.

In his lawsuit (PDF), he wants to block the state from giving out the funding.

Pending a trial on the merits, a temporary restraining order and/or a preliminary injunction enjoining Defendant Blagojevich from issuing any further instructions or taking any other action to further the release of funds authorized by the Grant and Grant Agreement to the Church, or, if already disbursed, enjoining Defendant to order the rescission and disgorgement of any such funds already released to the Church.

The Chicago Tribune‘s Eric Zorn is now referring to the activist as Sherman 2.0 — a new Sherman, if you will.

The difference between the two Rob Shermans?

Money, he says. Lots and lots of money.

Sherman, 55, of Buffalo Grove, has been a recurring character on the local scene for nearly a quarter of a century—the atheist crusader who commences agitating whenever he detects government showing favoritism to religion.

His was a shoestring operation, and a frayed shoestring at that: He worked a succession of odd jobs, including appliance salesman, self-employed travel agent, typist and delivery truck driver. For steady income, he says, he relied mostly on his wife, an accounting clerk. For emergency subsidies he relied on his wealthy parents. And for occasional legal help he relied on the kindness of volunteer lawyers.

… the Old Rob Sherman was surprisingly effective in persuading government officials to stop, as they should, using public resources to promote religion.

“Sometimes it just took one phone call,” Sherman said. “But now [my threats to take legal action] aren’t just a bluff. I can back them up.”

Why? Because last year, Sherman said, he inherited from his mother a sum that he characterizes as “a multimillion-dollar amount . . . more money than I can ever spend.”

With those resources, he said, he’ll be paying lawyers instead of begging them for help. The first major manifestation of Rob Sherman 2.0 was the federal suit, still ongoing, that he and a team of hired-gun lawyers filed last fall against the new state mandate requiring public school teachers to begin each classroom day with a moment of silence “for silent prayer or for silent reflection.”

Of course, we have to remember this is Rob Sherman. Every success he has seems to come intertwined with some sort of faux pas. With every victory comes a statement that would have been better left unsaid.

When State Rep. Monique Davis said to him in the Illinois General Assembly that “it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy [atheism] exists” — making him appear as a victim for once — he responded as such:

Now that Negroes like Representative Monique Davis have political power, it seems that they have no problem at all with discrimination, just as long as it isn’t them who are being discriminated against.

Yep. He said that.

Anyway, you have to wonder: how will he balance out this excellent lawsuit with something that will make us shake our heads, sigh, and second guess his sanity?

He took his money and bought this:

pilot.JPG

To symbolize this new determination as well as his new wealth, he bought a single-engine sport airplane for $113,000 last week, he said. And as soon as he learns to fly, he plans to use it to commute to wherever he detects breaches in the wall that separates church from state.

“The signal is that I now have nearly infinite resources to put the fear of God into public officials,” said Rob Sherman 2.0. He paused to see if I would acknowledge the well-wrought, irony-rich, attention-getting quote he no longer needs to fashion. “Do you like that one?”

I do. In fact, I do.

Oy…

On a side note, I can’t believe he found a way to top The Shermanator.

  • Ron in Houston

    I think his lawsuit is a positive thing; however, I’m like you and hope that he will act appropriately. Couldn’t he have just given a big donation to the Freedom from Religion folks and not try to make it all about Rob Sherman?

  • Wes

    Seems to me that this guy wants attention. It’s not so much about doing the right thing as it’s about getting everyone to focus on Rob Sherman.

    Hopefully, the good he does will outweigh the bad, but I won’t hold my breath. I wouldn’t be surprised if other atheists find themselves constantly having to make excuses for him whenever theists start pointing to him as an example that atheists are selfish/crazy/immoral.

    Also, it’s just a sad fact that it’s best to get a few Christians on your side whenever you tackle a church and state issue. A lone atheist with inherited money is going to attract a lot of negative attention simply because a lot of people, in general, just don’t like atheists (not just atheism, but atheists). Latent anti-atheist bigotry will make people oppose things which they perceive as being the cause of a “crusading atheist”. That’s why the ACLU always tries to find a Christian defendant, and why anti-ACLU goons always try to portray the ACLU as crusading atheists.

  • TheOtherOne

    secular portions of the church — like an office and daycare center

    Secular? The office from which the religious empire is run? The daycare center in which young ones are taught religious dogma? To call either of them “secular” is laughable.

    If they’ve got a cafeteria that they use to do after-church potlucks once a month, that doubles as a soup kitchen 3 days a week – maybe. But if they have a history of standing in there preaching while folks are eating, then I wouldn’t call that secular either.

    Not to mention that even if if were a retail store run by Aldi – it’s still IN A CHURCH. How could handing over government money to help rebuild a church NOT entangle church and state?

  • Jen

    I can’t really fault him for buying an airplane. I think if I inherited a large amount of money, my first instinct would probably be to put it in a retirement account- but my second instinct would be to buy a plane. And a new car. And a pony. And really cool shoes. I doubt I would think of trying to make the world a better place via lawyers.

  • N

    I don’t know this Rob Sherman (I have only recently begun reading the atheist and freethinker blogs), but I really hope he doesn’t do anything to screw up this lawsuit.

    Separation of Church and State aside, it is ridiculous for the state or local government to be giving money to rebuild this church, which is a private institution. That is the purpose of insurance. A church is a business, and if they were not responsible enough to keep adequate insurance, then that is their problem with which to deal. Taxpayers who have no interest in nor responsibility for this church should not be paying for its rebuilding.

    Now, I agree with TheOtherOne, in that if the cafeteria served as a public soup kitchen for the homeless, then maybe the public would have some responsibility; but not if conversion to the faith was a stipulation for reaping the benefits.

    By the way, I’m a wavering agnostic theist beginning a journey to reason. So please be patient with me. The indoctrination runs deep. :-)

  • http://noadi.blogspot.com Noadi

    Yeah, if I suddenly got lots of money some cool toys would be on my list of things to buy too. Not a plane because I have a bit of a fear of heights but I’d get a boat,move somewhere with warmer water than Maine and live on it.

    He really does shoot himself in the foot frequently which is too bad because he usually has a good point. This is a good example of something a state should not be giving money out for, and why didn’t the church’s insurance cover this stuff or do they want something bigger and better? Of course maybe they thought god would protect their church from fire and didn’t insure it.

  • http://myangrylittleblog.blogspot.com Phillip

    He bought a plane so he can swoop down and protect separation of church and state wherever it is violated. He’s making an effort to become an honest-to-goodness comic book hero.

  • Jessica

    I think he’s doing good things, but is he doing them for good reasons? That I can’t answer, as I don’t know him as a person. And hey, I have to admit, after putting some money away for college for my daughter and any other children I may end up having and ending my debt problem, you’re damn right I would buy some fun expensive toys, maybe a vacation or two or three, a nice house or two, etc.

    The only problem I have is, is he going to end up doing more harm than good?

  • http://laissez-fair.us/ I like tea

    I wouldn’t be surprised if other atheists find themselves constantly having to make excuses for him whenever theists start pointing to him as an example that atheists are selfish/crazy/immoral.

    All you have to do in response is point to any one of the asshole preachers or Christian PAC leaders out there.

    But unfortunately, you’re right, and while Rob Sherman is helping the cause in many ways, he’s also hurting it by being a fucking idiot. Calling a black Representative a Negro? There’s no excuse for that. You’d have to have Rip Van Winkled yourself from 1970 to think that’s acceptable.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi N.
    You said,

    By the way, I’m a wavering agnostic theist beginning a journey to reason. So please be patient with me. The indoctrination runs deep.

    What a both exciting and difficult time this must be for you. Stick around. There are some really nice people here who have gone through what you are describing. I would very much like to hear about your journey as it unfolds.

  • valhar2000

    Calling a black Representative a Negro?

    So, were back to that again, huh? Yeah, how very hurting that was. It hurt almost as much as manhandling a cracker; remember how those poor Catholics bled?

    It’s just a word, goddaminit! Negro! NEGRO! See? Is anybody hurt? Are people dead? Is there death, doom, war and disease caused by my writing that word?

    Get the fuck over it already! Godamnit you americans are racist!

  • N

    Thank you, Richard. It is true that it is both exciting and difficult. I’m thinking about starting a blog about it, but I haven’t committed to that quite yet. There are still so many conflicting ideas/emotions right now, I’m afraid it may be unintelligible.

    …oh, and by the way, I’d buy some cool toys with an inheritance, too; I just wouldn’t try to claim that they were for the greater good.

  • http://metroblog.blogspot.com Metro

    Valhar2000

    It’s not “just a word”, it’s a statement of values in context. Because it’s not about the person using it. For a lot of people, millions, in fact, the word “negro” carries the freight of the oppressive jackasses who used that term and other descriptives as an excuse to deny participatory citizenship to, harrass, and even kill, Americans.

    In a highly-charged atmosphere of conflict, it was a dangerous word to choose. There weren’t any harmless ones.

    Which brings into question why he bothered mentioning her race. Seems like a silly distraction to me. She provided him with plenty of ammunition from her own mouth.

  • http://hugotheatheist.blogspot.com/ Hugo

    “I now have nearly infinite resources”

    There are many examples of people who lost everything after saying similar things I hope he’ll be wise with his resources, it is hopeful that his plane does not look very extravagant.
    And I hope he’ll be safe with that plane, more accidents happen with those little things than with airliners, light aircraft flying is more likely to kill you than driving a car.