***Update 3***: American Atheists’ President Dave Silverman issued this statement to me:
AA will not take part in Bible or Koran desecration, although we wish to stress that we have NO respect for so-called ‘holy books’. If Ernest does it, it’s not with our support or under our name.
You all know how the Pennsylvania House of Representatives declared 2012 to be the “Year of the Bible” (as opposed to all the other years…?)
That was later followed up by the House declaring 2012 the “Year of Religious Diversity.” It was Resolution No. 771 (PDF). Among other things, it says “… these revered books impart great wisdom and beauty to believers and are appreciated and respected by nonbelievers as well.”
Ernest Perce V, the American Atheists Pennsylvania State Director, doesn’t respect those books and he says that if the House doesn’t vote against that latter resolution when it goes back in session in September, he’ll retaliate by… picking on the Islamic holy book:
… he plans to whip, or flog, the Koran in the [Capitol] rotunda at noon on Sept. 24 should the House not agree to nullify the resolution before it reconvenes from summer recess that day.
Jesus H. Christ. How is that a productive way to handle the situation?
Vowing to vote out all the House memberswho supported the resolution? Productive.
Making it known that holy books say a lot of awful things? Possibly productive, though that could backfire.
Desecrating one particular religion’s sacred text? Unproductive… with the added bonus of pissing everybody off.
(For what it’s worth, whipping the Bible wouldn’t be productive, either.)
Perce said he plans to thrash the Koran witha nine-tail whip 85 times and a single whip six times to protest the resolution’s number.
“I am a nonbeliever and for (the House) to assume we respect these books is [asinine],” Perce, a Harrisburg resident, said. “I will let other atheists come with me (to protest). I want Christians to lash the Koran, too.”
Here’s the thing: Ernest chose to do this by himself. It’s not like a bunch of atheists voted to say, “Yeah! Let’s flog the Koran! That’ll show everyone!” This is all him. So it’s not like we could stop him from doing what he wants. Furthermore, desecrating a book, symbolic as it is, isn’t a crime. But why on earth would anyone want to go the same route as crazy pastor Terry Jones?
Just to be clear, there’s plenty of problems with Islam and atheists should address them head on. My issue is that this particular form of activism won’t prove anything to anyone. You’re not enlightening minds. You’re not educating people on what the books say. You’re just trying to make people angry.
American Atheists should not stand for this. Ernest is doing this in his capacity as a State Director. My initial reaction is that Dave Silverman needs to issue some sort of press release saying that AA does not support this method of retaliation and that Ernest is going rogue. If Ernest doesn’t back down, they need to revoke his title.
I’ve asked both men for a response and I’ll provide updates when I hear from them.
***Edit***: This post has been edited for clarity since it initially went up.
***Update 1***: Dave Silverman tells me that he has not given any “ok” to do this under the AA banner. He’s surprised to see this in the press.
***Update 2***: Dave and I spoke about alternative ways to protest this Resolution. I offered a few ideas. He’ll be making some sort of statement soon.
(Thanks to Justin for the link)