Agnostic Wants Church Pews Out of the Courtroom

Here’s a great example of where I don’t want to go after religious people, but they’re doing just enough to push me away from them.

Agnostic Carrol Roberson was in court on a disorderly conduct charge when he noticed that the pews in the Southaven, Mississippi courtroom had crosses on them. This made him upset. He felt he couldn’t get a fair trial if religion played a role at the courthouse. (I don’t actually understand that since his beliefs had nothing to do with the reason he was in court in the first place…)

Maybe he was just overreacting to something that wasn’t a big deal at all? Unlike a Ten Commandments plaque in a courtroom, these pews don’t seem like the masterwork of a religious idealogue trying to sneak religion into the government.

Southaven Mayor Greg Davis explains that the pews were put into the courtroom because the city purchased an old church (to convert it to a community center) and instead of throwing away the pews, they figured they could save money by putting them into the courtroom.

Honestly, that makes sense to me.

I’m not saying it’s necessarily appropriate, but it doesn’t sound like the Christian Right was involved or that they were purposely trying to do something nefarious.

“I don’t think we’re sitting up here saying you have to be Baptist,” says Mayor Davis, “or you have to be Methodist. Or Episcopalian. Or Catholic. Or Jewish. It’s not even discussed in the courtroom.”

So I’m slightly torn. Roberson is right and those pews shouldn’t be there, but I think filing a lawsuit is the wrong way to go about making this change happen. You end up pissing off the other side and making them even more defensive.

Davis added that if someone would be willing to donate pews with no religious symbols, he’d be happy to have them replaced, but he doesn’t want the city to have to pay additional money for them.

I’m just kidding.

Davis couldn’t keep his mouth shut and just dug himself into a hole that makes me dislike him:

“I welcome the challenge,” Davis says. “Maybe it’s time the religious right stands up to the liberal left and says enough is enough. Where do you stop? Where’s the common sense? I’m not taking them out.”

*facepalm*

This isn’t the Religious Right versus the Liberal Left.

This isn’t a slippery slope to anywhere.

But now that I know Davis wants the pews there at all costs, I really want them out of the courtroom.

Or, at the very least, I want the crosses to be filled in and varnished over. Then you don’t even have to take them out! Problem solved.

This isn’t the biggest problem in the world, but both sides are handling it in an inadequate way.

(Thanks to kindofabuzz for the link)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=profile&id=100000016895400 littlejohn

    Roberson should seriously shut up. But if he’s convicted, he has grounds for an appeal. Now THAT might be interesting.

  • Revyloution

    As a professional painter, I had to comment on this

    ‘Or, at the very least, I want the crosses to be filled in and varnished over. Then you don’t even have to take them out! Problem solved.’

    That would just make them stand out more. The filler will always be a different color or grain pattern, and varnish is clear. You would just make them more visible.

    If I lived there, I would volunteer to router out the crosses into circles, then have the city seal pressed into the circles. To bad Oregon is a bit far from Mississippi.

  • JJR

    Revy says:

    “I would volunteer to router out the crosses into circles, then have the city seal pressed into the circles. To bad Oregon is a bit far from Mississippi.”

    Sounds like an excellent compromise that someone locally should suggest…replace the christian symbols with secular ones honoring the town’s history. Problem solved. Next!

  • Revyloution

    Ya JJR, rational thought is tricky that way. Solutions are really easy to find when you don’t hold to dogma.

    I blame it on my hat.

  • Edman

    I think it’s telling that the only “religions” he mentions are Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Catholic, and Jewish.

  • http://noreckoning.blogspot.com Will

    Roberson, while he’s right that the Christian symbols really don’t belong there, isn’t doing himself or secularism any favours.

    Seriously, he’s in court for committing a crime (albeit a minor one) and he’s complaining that Christian symbols are to blame for his conviction?? I can just see the soundbite from the religious right:

    “Maybe if he had been revering those Christian symbols instead of railing against them, he would have a moral compass that would’ve kept him out of trouble. More proof that atheists and agnostics are immoral and evil.”

    Of course, it doesn’t help that the town mayor decided to take the demagogic route. Either way, Roberson isn’t helping the cause out with his antics.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    “the only “religions” he mentions are Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Catholic, and Jewish”

    …and the only types of music are “Country” and “Western”.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/godless_monsters Godless Monster

    “But now that I know Davis wants the pews there at all costs, I really want them out of the courtroom.”

    I’m with you on that…makes my blood boil!
    I like Revyloution’s idea…awesome solution. I need to get a hat…

  • http://lyvvielimelight.blogspot.com/ Lyvvie

    I’m with Revyloution! He’s got the best idea yet. I also agree he sports a rather dashing hat. Any Oregon Carpenters willing to offer service? Carpenter’s union with apprentices just desperate to get some work experience? there must be some compromise that can be found.

    Greg Davis needs some PR lessons.

  • Miko

    (I don’t actually understand that since his beliefs had nothing to do with the reason he was in court in the first place…)

    What does that have to do with anything? Tom Robinson wasn’t (officially) in court for being black, so he must have gotten a fair trial, right?

    Besides, we’re talking Mississippi. Does anyone in Mississippi get a fair trial?

  • http://www.unmails.com Tyler

    This guy needs to be a friendlier atheist.

  • http://lyvvielimelight.blogspot.com/ Lyvvie

    Sorry, got confused, thought it was Oregon….someone said Oregon. Must improve skimming skills.

  • DemetriusOfPharos

    @Revyloution

    I blame it on my hat.

    But the hat is so badass. It couldn’t possibly be the hat.

    (Disclaimer, I am currently wearing a black fedora for no other reason than because its there and looks cool.)

    @Lyvvie
    I think Revyloution was implying that he would do the work, but was _from_ Oregon, which is far from Mississippi where the story is happening. Understandable mistake, no worries.

    @Jeff P
    FSM bless you for the Blues Brothers reference. Well played.

  • muggle

    I’m totally on Roberson’s side in this.

    I don’t care what the reason. You don’t walk into a supposedly unbiased courtroom and find it plastered with a religious symbol of any ilk.

    And I’m not buying Davis’ explanation. I’m sure if he was as innocent as he’s claiming he would have asked maintenance, “Can you remove the crosses so we can use them?” I work in building management. You wouldn’t believe the things we get asked. That would be a pretty routine question, given the setting.

    Since I work in real property management for a government entity, I can say with fair certainty, the City’s got maintenance staff who can do it. This a-hole saw the pews as a sneaky way to get the cross into his courtroom.

    Frankly, I’m wondering what he took out to put them in. Were there no seats in the courtroom before he conveniently had these cross-etched pews? My county’s courtroom has pews. Know why I’m not offended? That’s right because they’re bare. Nothing’s etched in them, let alone a cross.

    Good for Roberson for not bending over and taking one up the arse just to be friendly and not wanting to come off as one of those hostile nonbelievers. Not sure I’d have as much guts, especially in Mississippi.

  • http://lagunatic.wordpress.com/ Lagunatic

    Love the money savings and recycling…not loving the cross.

    All in favour of Revy’s solution say “Aye”.

    AYE!

  • http://lagunatic.wordpress.com/ Lagunatic

    (ps, Roberson sounds like a caustic agnostic….oh and with a name like ROBERson is anyone surprised he’s found himself in court?…….wait, I’ve got more (and this one is for the anti-pc people in the crowd) – are you sure he’s not from Australia? Get it? Roberson? Convict? Australia?

    Never mind.
    I’m going back to trying to put out the fire in my toaster oven now.

  • http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/ Dromedary Hump

    Bet dollars to donuts if those seats had Stars of David carved into them, the “good” Mayor wouldn’t have had them installed as is.

    If it had a wiccan symbol, he’d have burned them. Damnable hypocrites. Crosses don’t belong in any court room in this country, in any way.
    period.

    As for Roberson having to be a “friendlier atheist” … thank you Mr. StepandFetchIt

  • paul

    if the pews are functional ignore the crosses. you can be strong enough not to be offended by the trivial.

  • http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/ Dromedary Hump

    Paul said: “if the pews are functional ignore the crosses. you can be strong enough not to be offended by the trivial.”

    I know just what you mean, I feel the same way about public school science books and the inclusion of Intel Design / Creationism; or a giant cross on public land; Biblical verses emblazoned on rifle sights in the military;or a cross carved into the wall of the Motor Vehicle Bureau, etc.

    If the books, rifle sights, parks, and gov’t offices are functional we can just ignore those chapters / ignore those symbols; we are strong enough not to be offended by the “trivial.”

    Welcome to “capitulation to creeping theism 101″

  • Revyloution

    DemetriusOfPharos good on ya mate. Men don’t wear enough good hats. I blame it all on J.F.K, but thats another story. I happen to be sporting a nice green plaid wool job today.

    Solid wood is pretty easy to work with, I hope someone does fix em. I’m all about recycling and reusing.

    Lagunatic, be careful with those toaster ovens. They are all firebomb death traps, and many were recalled. If its an older one, check the manufacturer.

  • http://www.edwardlarson.com Ed

    He felt he couldn’t get a fair trial if religion played a role at the courthouse. (I don’t actually understand that since his beliefs had nothing to do with the reason he was in court in the first place…)

    Hemant, I don’t know how much effect the crosses have had/ will have on trails, but studies like this one which demonstrated that polling location (school, church, library etc) effects voting patterns, make me inclined to take a “better safe than sorry” attitude towards the surroundings and symbols in them when it comes to matters of importance, like voting or in this case justice. Perhaps this type of subtle, but very real influence, was what Roberson was referring to by his claim to not be able to get a fair trail with the benches in the court house.

  • http://lagunatic.wordpress.com/ Lagunatic

    @revy – the oven wasn’t the problem, but the cloth I left in it was.

    I’m waiting for someone to re-call my brain.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Church pews? Seriously? Aren’t they designed to be the most uncomfortable things that you could possible sit on in your life? They’re even worse than those seats that they put in at bus stations or the horrible plastic McChairs at Rotten Ronnies.

    Honestly I think it is a bit silly. My office is built from an old stables. One of the features is a row of 16th century pillars “recovered” from Titchfield Abbey after the Dissolution. They are a great talking point when clients visit and, of course, overtly religious. My stance of it is that they have historical and aesthetic value independent of any religious symbolism.

    Now obviously Southaven doesn’t date back to Henry VIII’s time but an old church building still has historical and aesthetic value in its own right. The building and features must be 100 years old at least? That would be my defence of this case and it would attract local history buffs and art appreciation groups as well as the usual religious fruits.

  • Tim

    if you watch the actual TV interview you will see that Davis NEVER says the crap about the religious right/liberal left.

    his actual quote was simply “maybe its time we stand up and say enough’s enough”

    media created that quote to enhance the story

    view it here:
    http://www.myeyewitnessnews.com/mediacenter/local.aspx

  • http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/ Dromedary Hump

    Tim,

    You mean it’s more likely that the “bias liberal media” falsified a quote, than it is that the Mayor gave multiple interviews to TV and print media and embellished his tv quote with one or more of them?

    That’s interesting.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X