City Logo Includes Church; Atheists Say Take It Out; Overreaction Ensues

Let’s suppose you were to file a legal complaint against a local government endorsing religion. Maybe it’s that they’re putting up a Nativity Scene at Town Hall, or there’s a copy of the Ten Commandments hanging in the local courthouse.

We know exactly how the script goes:

1) Atheists — and it’s almost always atheists — file the complaint.

2) The local officials act stunned. No one’s ever complained before!

3) They they begin to demonize the atheists instead of addressing their actual concerns. They hate god! Why are they picking on our tiny town? (Apparently, if a small town does anything, it must be legal.)

4) Religious Right groups paint this as a David vs Goliath battle, with the atheists as Goliath. (Which is strange considering how the Christian groups’ budgets are about 32948242 times that of the atheist groups.)

5) The atheists (usually) win.

6) The whole things starts up again somewhere else and the cycle repeats.

That brings us to the city logo in Wyoming, Michigan:

In that picture, you can see a house, a factory, a golf course… and a church.

The logo was adopted in 1959 and no one’s said anything until now. Why not? It’s possible people were afraid to do it — you risk outing yourself as an atheist. It’s also possible no one noticed. But that still doesn’t make it right. That’s why the Freedom From Religion Foundation is right to challenge it.

The [FFRF's] letter does not explicitly threaten a lawsuit, but does cite numerous federal court cases where a municipality was taken to court over inclusion of religious symbology of some kind on an official seal or logo. In the letter, FFRF staff attorney Patrick Elliott urges the city to “immediately discontinue using this seal and adopt a new representation of the city that is inclusive of all of your citizens.”

Any claims of historical or cultural significance to the church and Latin cross on the city seal do not relieve the city of its constitutional obligations. The city must not endorse religion. The city may not depict the church and cross because to do so places the city imprimatur behind Christianity. This excludes non-Christians and violates the Constitution.”

Of course, the comment thread on the article is just embarrassing…

Atheists need sensitivity training to deal with their bigotry

The best way to tick off the FFRF is to e-mail them and tell them that you are going to pray for them.

… our country has vigorously moved ahead to eliminate all aspects of religion, except for the belief that sharia law and Islamic expansionism on American soil are permitted…

And then there’s the person who says she’ll fight back by putting up a Christian display on her private property. Something she has always been able to do and is perfectly legal.

In general, a typical overreaction from people who have no idea what the law does and does not allow.

I hope FFRF wins just to teach them all a lesson.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Tainda

    “City of Vision and Progress”

    Anyone else see the funny in that?

  • Andrew Morgan

    Am I the only atheist that sees things like this — horrors, a crudely-drawn outline of a church on a city seal in a place I never knew existed! — roll my eyes, and continue with my day?

    I guess (?) I’m glad that there are atheists out there who care enough to police the seals and license plates of cities across the country for “endorsing religion”, but hell, it’s not like it’s a great mystery to me why the rest of society gets peeved about lawsuits like this one.

    It might be a shock to some atheists, but not everyone shares the view that we should be going around saying neener-neener and filing lawsuits at every tingling of our “endorsing-religion” Spidey sense.

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      You go ahead and you continue to not have a problem with blatant violations of the Constitution.

      • Andrew Morgan

        Haha, okay buddy.  Even assuming that this qualifies as a “blatant violation of the Constitution”, this particular blatant violation ranks  pretty far down the list of other blatant violations in modern government that I think I’m going to concern myself with.

        • Kodie

          I understand why it seems like small business to meddle with, but it’s systemic. You can’t change the bigger things, those “real” problems without addressing the small ones, and small ones that should be easier to fix turn into huge problems for some reason. Why is it not simpler to fix a small thing, why is there such a fight over such a small fucking little dumb thing no one should care about? That digging in to the petty things – on their side, any time they are challenged for the least little violation of the Constitution – represents a much larger problem.

          How is pointing out that their seal amounts to “establishment” important to us, because it’s important to them that their favorite faith remain “established”. These little lessons for people who don’t understand the 1st amendment, yeah, it seems like it would be too unimportant to bother, but you kind of have to build the mountain out of individual grains of sand, everywhere. It should be a relatively simple lesson in civics for the residents of this or any other town, and I believe that’s why these causes are taken on. But it means so much to them, that they miscomprehend it as taking away their majority freedom to worship how they assume everyone does or should. But it is nothing of the sort. The city or town doesn’t have a god. It doesn’t report to god, and it doesn’t establish that residents must believe in god. That is still their choice, and it is their freedom as much as anyone’s that these laws they love to violate are in place. I don’t care if everyone in that city goes to church, and they should appreciate the freedom from the government pressuring them to do so. It is of their own freedom to go to that church, their free will to choose a god that pleases them to worship, and even to see members of the city council there. This doesn’t take away any personal freedoms, and a rather simple way to express that, if they were only willing to learn it. Nobody’s attacking their freedom.

          Why should we only pay attention to the big issues? If people are settled in their taken-for-granted state-preferred religion, that it’s in their face they don’t notice how offensive it is, how do you suggest anyone approach the bigger issues with no ground to stand on? This is and should be a light lesson, not a battle to wrench anything away. Who is making a big deal out of nothing.

          In theory, faith is faith. It’s inside you, if you wish, and has nothing to do with signs or your government. Towns are made of communities, who may all go to church, and let them celebrate their church community and have all the faith they want together on some other sign that does not depict the official main features of their city stamp of approval. If you take the golf course off the logo, does that mean the city no longer approves of golf and taking away the freedom to play golf? Are they going to turf up their lawns with sand traps, holes and little flags so non-golf-players can’t avoid looking at the golf? If that’s what kind of screwy vengeance their golf-religion plays out in their head, I say, “whatever knocks ya out.”

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          Fine then. Nobody is forcing you to support this legal action, and nobody is saying you should. Do what you want. But don’t denigrate those who think this is a valid cause and who consider this important.

      • Tim

        I am not a US citizen so it isn’t my Consitution it is yours and you are welcome to defend it to the hilt.

        It just seems to me that the best way to make your country less religious (if that is your aim) is to adopt some measure of indifference to it (ignore it to death if you like). rather than take action which will galvanise Christians into indignation even if they end up loosing any law suit.

        There are plenty of Christians who are just longing for a battle over somethig like this.  They don;t care if they win or loose they just want to portray themselves as martys to their cause.  It seems silly to give them what they want over an issue that is rather minor in the scheme of things.   

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          You’re mistaken about a lot of things.

          If you care to know, we don’t want to “make our country less religious”. We want to restore it to its secular nature; i.e. government neutrality in all things religion. This includes removing any and all references to anything religious by the government, as this constitutes an official endorsement of a religious belief, something that the founders of this country aimed to prevent.

          We’re not giving Christians anything they want. This is a legal challenge over an illegal government endorsement of religion. That’s it. We are challenging the illegal acts of a government entity. Time and time again, when religion goes up against secularism (which isn’t the same as atheism, I hope you understand) religion loses, nearly every single time.

          Prayer in schools endorsed by the faculty? Struck down. Prayers at government meetings? Struck down. Christian crosses on government property? Struck down. Time and time again, secularism is winning out over religious intrusion into our government. A government, by the way, that we all share equally.

          We are battling Christian privilege, not Christianity itself. We are not attempting to remove all traces of religion from our country; we are attempting to remove all traces of endorsement of religion from our government.

          • Tim

            “If you care to know, we don’t want to “make our country less religious”. We want to restore it to its secular nature; i.e. government neutrality in all things religion. ”

            well I was certainly mistaken about your aim.  My mistake, I assumed that you would think that less religion in your country was a good thing.  But you are fine with loads of religion just so long as it is clearly private.  Fair enough I suppose.

            • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

              No problem. Religion is fine, as long as it’s kept out of legislative decisions and off of publicly-owned, government-run property.

              • Frank

                Does anyone understand how people make decisions?  It is impossible to keep your faith (in whatever or nothing) out of your decision making process.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  You’re confusing ‘faith’ with ‘trust’.

            • Griff

              Of course pop secularists want to make our country less religious–why else would they insist that our government is (or must be) “secular”?  They’re merely the flip side of the “Christian nation” set, a group equally convinced that its take on democracy is the neutral (can you say, correct?) take.  In fact, in the U.S., our government is supposed to take no stand one way or the other.  That, of course, is what neutrality means, though I have no idea what it means to our friends on both extremes of this issue.

              As far as a requirement for religion to remain private, I think a better word is personal.  ”Private” has been made to mean out of sight, out of the public square, out of the hair of those who imagine themselves the monitors of ideological expression, and it should go without saying that no citizen has the right to dictate how, if, or when another citizen exercises his or her basic liberties.  Secularists, of course, will insist they’re simply making sure the state refrains from endorsing faith, but their actions impact individual religious expression and they full well know (and take pleasure in) that fact.  Our extremely brief First Amendment makes a handful of things perfectly clear: among them, that only Congress has the authority to regulate our liberties, and then only when it does so a carefully as possible, taking pains not to abridge, dilute, or otherwise harm them.  You’d think these elementary principles of our democracy were rocket science.

              • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                What definition of ‘secular’ are you using?

                SCA says:

                The Secular Coalition for America holds that freedom of conscience, including religious freedom, is a fundamental American value as evidenced by the fact that this is the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights. Freedom of conscience is best guaranteed by protecting and strengthening the secular character of our government. Religious tolerance, a necessary product of this freedom, must be extended to people of all religions and to those without religious beliefs.

                http://secular.org/about/main 

                or

                A secular state is a concept of secularism, whereby a state or country purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_state 

                “In fact, in the U.S., our government is supposed to take no stand one way or the other. ”

                Exactly, that’s what secular means

                (You’re not reading conservapedia are you?  Their definition is FUBAR)

                • Griff

                  I’m likely more liberal in my left big toe than you are in your entire person, but let’s pause the marking contest for a moment of rationality, shall we.

                  When it comes to word definitions, I use a little-known resource called “the dictionary,” which actually refers to any number of individual editions and types.  I prefer Merriam-Webster:
                  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/secular 

                  Note that “secular” is not a synonym for “neutral.”  I realize its misused in that way, but I’m exercising my right to declare such usage incorrect.  As a Christian, I don’t pull the “Christian nation” jazz, as I know full well we aren’t one.  Too bad my secular counterparts can’t demonstrate the same courtesy.  

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson


                  Note that “secular” is not a synonym for “neutral.”  I realize its misused in that way, but I’m exercising my right to declare such usage incorrect. ”

                  So we disagree on the meaning of ‘secular’.  But a semantic argument isn’t going to get us anywhere.  Let’s focus on what we actually mean.  Assume I’m totally wrong on what the word means.

                  Would you agree with the statement that “Government should take no position on any religion or faith or lack thereof”?

                  Because that’s the concept I’m behind, whether you think I’m using the right word or not.

                • Griff

                  But what does it mean to “take a position on” religion?  Secularists insist that the mere official acknowledgement of the existence of faith as a popular institution is, somehow, the same thing as endorsement.  If such an inflexible and fanatical reading were applied to other popular institutions, we’d end up with a democracy that represented no one and nothing.  Sort of like the democracy desired by Alito and Co., no?  I passionately believe that the left should err on the side of inclusion, representation, tolerance.  Otherwise, we’re adding to the sins of the rabid right.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Secularists insist that the mere official acknowledgement of the existence of faith as a popular institution is, somehow, the same thing as endorsement.

                  citation please.  And I don’t mean to be obstinate. I just disagree with your version of “what secularists want”.

                  I passionately believe that the left should err on the side of inclusion, representation, tolerance.

                  Most politicians are open about their faith.  And nobody faults them for that, until they claim their faith as a source of their policy decision.

                  Or as Obama said:

                  Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

          • Griff


            We want to restore it to its secular nature; i.e. government neutrality in all things religion.”

            Except that’s not what “secular” means–look it up.  That’s the central flaw in secularist thinking,  i.e. that “secular” somehow denotes a neither/nor posture.  It does not.  The “Christian nation” crowd similarly paints its concept of democracy as the default, neutral model–indeed, as something inevitable, innocuous, natural, and necessary if we want to save the country, yada, yada.  The conceit that the Constitution was written to cater to a particular person or group’s ideological bent is spectacularly anti-democratic.  And the conceit that one’s own point of view is anything but that–one’s own point of view–is anti-intellectual.

            Our single-sentence First Amendment is hardly a treatise on state/church separation.  Does it tell us how to determine when something is or isn’t a violation of that principle?  Does it tell us what to do in the former event?  Hardly.  If our founders had wanted your brand of activism, they’d have included a long, detailed guide.  Little could they have dreamed that future citizens would be reading universes of meaning into single phrases; surely, they’d have rewritten our founding document as a bone-literal legal document and eschewed such a sketchy, literary approach, but how could they have foreseen the robotization of the American intellect?

            • Kodie

              Does it tell us how to determine when something is or isn’t a violation
              of that principle?  Does it tell us what to do in the former event?
               Hardly.  If our founders had wanted your brand of activism, they’d have
              included a long, detailed guide.

              They left out the long detailed guide specifically so that it may be interpreted along the way and case by case by the judicial system, ultimately. The way you see it, they would have to foresee all circumstances and anything not cut in stone would have to be considered legal. That’s not how the Constitution works or was intended to work.

              • Griff

                I see.  Our Constitution was intended to work by virtue of zealots parsing a terse amendment and arbitrarily deriving an imperative barely, if at all, indicated in it? 

                In fact, the sketchy, decidedly non-legalistic character of our founding document suggests our founders wanted to stifle zealotry, not empower it.

                And I know, I know–secularists are not zealots.  We have their word on that.

                • Kodie

                  What the fuck are you even talking about? You sound like you’re fed as steady diet up to your eyeballs on talk radio and Fox News. You have some difficulty processing information and a great prejudice against freedom or understanding the application of laws or the judicial process. Your beliefs are up to you, they’re not being taken away, they’re being sorted out where they belong – to you, and to everyone. Imaginary superstition making laws for everyone to follow is not ok, and you’re a bully who won’t share, and you’re being zealous to protect something that’s against the law.

                • Griff

                  Nope.  Yellow dog Dem, liberal Christian, believer in a God with an infinite number of faces, and someone convinced that our great democracy can accommodate ALL worldviews and beliefs, just as it was meant to.  Difference between me and you is that I see it as OUR democracy, i.e. everyone’s, and not MINE.  That’s beyond you, so don’t even try to take it in.

                • Kodie

                  Explain how taking religious endorsement out of governing agencies fails to accommodate the freedom of the democracy? I think you are inventing concepts that are beyond people because you fail to read for comprehension. Taking religion (Christianity and its privilege) out of the governing agencies places them back where they belong, with the people, and allows them the FULL freedom just as you described

                  Being as you’re a Christian, it should bother you that the government portrays a slight preference at the expense of people who believe something else. You’re so prejudiced against atheists taking away your freedom that you can’t comprehend that this effort does nothing of the sort. People don’t want the government minding their business, not their religious business especially. It should discomfort you that your governing bodies like to endorse any religion, as it’s none of their business to impress upon you their preference although you can’t see it because it agrees with your preference. If they told you to or suggested you be a Buddhist to be in their favor, you’d say “fuck out of my business, I’m a Christian”.

                  NO ONE IS TAKING THAT AWAY FROM YOU! Get it yet? FFS.

                • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

                  Yes, it CAN accommodate all worldviews and beliefs… the government is simply not allowed to have a preference of religious belief when making laws or operating its publicly-owned and funded facilities.

                  Again, why is this so hard for you to understand?

            • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

              Did you read anything I typed? Our country is not a Christian nation. It is a secular one. But Christians are trying to hijack most people’s complacency by putting their religion in the legislative process, in public schools, etc.

              Christians enjoy a 76% majority in this country, as well as a position of privilege that has largely gone unchallenged until recently in history. Ever since the 1950s, the Supreme Court has largely been on the side of secularism in deciding matters such as these.As for the founders’ thoughts on why certain things were put in the Constitution, read the Federalist Papers. Then read many of the other writings of our founders, where a separation of church and state is the most common reason for separating government and religion.

              As for SOCAS not being in the Constitution: it’s in the spirit of the Establishment Clause, where “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. It’s pretty clear what the intention of that was: to prevent our government from legislating in such a way that religious belief or doctrine is the primary motivator.

              • Griff

                (Real slowly): No, our country is not a secular nation.  Not a secular nation.  Not a secular nation.  Not only that, it’s not a secular nation.

                I invited you to look up “secular.”  The offer still stands.  In fact, I’ll provide a link:
                http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/secular 

                Secular is not, and to my knowledge has never been, a synonym for neutral.

                • Kodie

                  Has no position on religion either way. That’s your freedom at work. You can chant your little mantra, but that doesn’t make what you think is true any truer. 

                  For example, you are saying this is a baseball nation, and some others are not baseball fans, but football fans or hockey fans or tennis fans, or feel pretty swell without sports in their lives at all. Your congress doesn’t tell you to like baseball, even though you already do and neutrality on the subject doesn’t forbid you from liking or playing baseball. Your government doesn’t tell the tennis fans to only like baseball or play tennis with baseball rules. This filters down to every level of government by challenge and precedent as to what the 1st amendment applies to. It’s not the town’s discretion to ignore the 1st amendment on the basis they are not “Congress” and enforce baseball and abridge non-baseball players or fans their freedom. 

                  Your town is the people who are free to believe whichever or nothing. The government as an institution doesn’t have a religion or make laws that only take baseball rules into account and disregard for football and tennis and not liking sports at all. It’s none of the law’s business what your beliefs are, and your beliefs shall not intrude on others’ beliefs by petitioning the government to switch all the tennis fans to baseball rules, or make people who don’t play or like any sports to start playing baseball or apply baseball rules to other aspects of their life. Neutrality on the subject allows people the freedom to live their own lives the way they want, because wouldn’t you agree that baseball has nothing to do with governing people.

                  It’s not a Christian nation, no matter what you read or heard or talk about on other forums. That’s false propaganda and wishful thinking being circulated, and you, buddy, are in deep denial and you are an idiot.

                • Griff

                  “…
                  and you are an idiot.”

                  So much for bothering to respond to you.  Have a great day.

                • Kodie

                  It’s just the things you say… I tried to draw you a picture, but you’re so hung up that you’re painting this issue between “zealots” abridging your freedom. I knew you were an idiot by the time you started off your latest rant with “not a secular nation” half a dozen times.

                  You haven’t explained that thought train very well, you are jumping to conclusions, creating straw man arguments, and portraying someone who is an idiot. Your “easy out” is that I’ve insulted you! Now you don’t have to explain anything! So sensitive. So insulting and sensitive. 

                • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

                  Oh, the “you insulted me, therefore I’ll ignore every valid point you made” argument.

                  At least be honest and say that you have no valid arguments or evidence to refute what Kodie said.

                • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

                  From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/secular:

                  sec·u·lar
                     [sek-yuh-ler] adjective

                  1.of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are notregarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal: secularinterests.

                  2.not pertaining to or connected with religion ( opposed tosacred): secular music.

                  3. (of education, a school, etc.) concerned with nonreligioussubjects.

                  4.(of members of the clergy) not belonging to a religious order;not bound by monastic vows ( opposed to regular).

                  Sounds to me like you’re just playing word games. To have a secular government is to have a government that is not regarded as religious, or not pertaining to or connected with religion, or not belonging to a religious order.

                  That’s what I mean by “neutral when it comes to religion”. It means not having a preference when it comes to religion. How hard is this for anybody to understand?

        • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

          Ignore it? No, no, a thousand times no. The Christian Right are *already* galvanized, they’re *already* organized and they are completely set on turning the United States into a Christian Theocracy. They have some very intelligent, very astute leaders who have the strategy planned to the detail. One of those details is to normalize everywhere possible Christian values. Christmas and the Nativity are already largely normalized in the U.S. (and frankly much of the West). The Ten Commandments in courtrooms and Christian crosses as default headstones are some of the next steps.

          We can’t let up. Remember that Christians feel that they’re doing something moral and imperative and out of obedience to a jealous, angry sky fairy. They won’t quit.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          It’s befuddling that you with your state religion are a more secular society than us.  But no, I don’t think the situation in the US would get any better if we just ignore it.  It might be worse in the short term to poke the elephant.  But if we don’t get it off our foot, trust me, it’s going to bury us in shit.

          • Tim

            “It’s befuddling that you with your state religion are a more secular society than us”

            I don’t know the reason for this either, but I suspect that by shifting religion from the public to the private sphere you actually invigorate it.

            You have every right to defend your consitution and it is none of my business, but I make the observation that defending the consitution and working towards a less religious society are two separate aims.  SOmetimes they overlap and sometimes they don’t.

            I’m not saying ignore all Christian privilege – when it actually harms someone then go after it all guns blazing.

            • Kodie

              Thought police is a dangerous society. You can’t really make people be less religious or “ignore” it to death. Basically all this is about keeping religion in its own realm, it’s not about weakening belief. When you think about it, atheism being accused of being a religion – a secular government has no issues with people’s freedom to worship in the same way that it does not prefer to have them worship less. It has no preferences either way. Privately held beliefs are not “private,” or simmering in secret, they are allowed to be right out in the open – just not in government.

              Imagine that it’s about ice cream and the government has no laws about ice cream. It doesn’t tell you what flavor to eat, or make you eat any if you don’t want to. It has nothing to do with governing, and yet people can eat ice cream at the park or the beach or in their house. They can feed ice cream to their kids, or share ice cream with a neighbor. They can sell ice cream from a truck or in a store, even go to the ice cream parlor whenever they feel like it. The government doesn’t give a shit whether or not you like ice cream a lot or not at all. Banning ice cream would be bad governing. It’s not up to them to weigh the merits and pitfalls of ice cream.

              Atheism is something else. We’re discussing among merits or pitfalls of religion, mostly pitfalls being it’s from imaginary, emotionally or physically harmful, its impact on society, and often that it’s encroaching our rights to have a secular government, or bias against atheists or anyone who doesn’t believe in mostly Jesus, but any of them. Some of what atheism can be about is pushing religion back on its own turf, while not taking over government ourselves or obliterating religion in free society.

              We are exercising our freedom of religion by not having one, not needing one, and our freedom of speech to discuss openly, and people isolated in communities heavy with religion can find resources and discussions. Without theism, heavy theism, I would not really be an atheist. I still wouldn’t believe in god, but I would rather be a more secular society, which is what you’re talking about. Only by discussing it, raising awareness, will society change, but not by thought police. Keeping quiet and letting things go is “nicer,” but you think it makes religion louder and more obnoxious. It has existed in out freedom and in government wherever it can weasel while atheists have had to keep quiet and mostly isolated without the internet. I don’t think people need religion, but they can’t leave it except on their own and the resources and discussions that exist to educate them. It’s not something they will just quietly pass from keeping quiet and not fighting because it is deeply in our national culture, in some locations quite heavily, where religion is “the way” and atheism is presumed not to exist. “Ignoring it to death” doesn’t work since it’s basically already been tried. They like to keep everything as it is and never be challenged. Would you keep a nest of bees that came and built in your room? They’re hardly bothering you, but they belong outside, even if you have to upset them first.

              I hope that is something to think about.

              • Kodie

                Sorry about messing up all the syntax.

              • Tim

                Plenty to think about thanks.  Can I give you one thing to think about:

                you say ” You can’t really make people be less religious or “ignore” it to death. ”

                This may not be applicatble to your country, but my point is that “ignoring it to death” or even “coopting it as part of the state and allowing people to become complacent and indeferent about it” HAS WORKED in every single European Country.  You say it will not work in the US, and you might be right.  But if you think that the US is an exception then I think you need to suggest some ideas as to why it is the exception. 

                There is much I admire about the USA and its commitment to individual freedom and democracy is one of those things.  Your Consitutution is a great and noble document and an inspiration to the world.

                the non-establishement clause is not anti-religious.  If I were American I would support it because I think that it is right and proper and because I believe in fairness and justice.  The reality on the ground is, I think (and a comparisin between countries might broadly supoport this conclsuion), that the non-establishment clause has probably favoured the promotion of religion more than it has hindered it.  It has certainly prevented abuse and led to non-religious people being treated more fairly and it should certainly be retained.  It is an essential safeguard.  But just because it is a good law doesn’t mean that it can’t be applied with discetion and that there are some times were it will cause more harm than good.  I think that this city logo arguemnt is perhaps one of those times. 

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  But if you think that the US is an exception then I think you need to suggest some ideas as to why it is the exception.

                  Constant attempts to teach creationism in science class.DominionismBiblical justification for global warming denial. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKd6UJPghUs

                  Faith healing

                  I could go on. And on.  And no, those aren’t city logos.  But it’s all a product of religious privilege.  The assumption that faith is a virtue, and that invoking God supersedes all else.  I think it takes a critical mass of people who see through that, and not necessarily of non-believers.  I have Christian friends who understand how important it is to have a secular society, so that they CAN have true religious freedom.  And there are atheists who DON’T get that.  In Europe you have that critical mass, and religion is alive and well.

                  Here we have a significant proportion of the population who think we need to be a theocracy.  They may wince at the word, but if you listen to how they think God must be in an elected officials thoughts at all times, that’s what they are describing.

                  If you’ve got 2h 37min to spare (and I hope it’s viewable in the UK, try watching this slate of GOP candidates (except for the one who actually won) http://www.thefamilyleader.com/thanksgiving-family-forum fall over themselves to invoke God the most.  And not just Jesus-is-my-friend, but “We need Bible based laws”

            • Griff

              “…
              defending the consitution and working towards a less religious society are two separate aims.”

              Thank you, but they won’t get it.  They’re too violently prejudiced against faith.  Many of them are former fundamentalist believers who, like the proverbial “dry drunk,” can only progress from one either/or mode of thinking and behavior to another.  

              One hilarious feature of their either/or inclination is the way they simply assume that anyone in disagreement is an agent for the religious right.  See it their way, and their way only, or you’re the enemy.  It’s because they have no middle (read: depth, substance) to their understanding–everything is do or die, this or that, right or wrong.  They ought to marry their counterparts on the right and get it over with.

              At least we have their vote for Obama.  For God’s sake, I hope we do, anyway.

              • Kodie

                Oh, I see, you want to fail reading and just have a crisis about something you made up.

            • Griff

              And savor the religion-in-its-place meme.  Similarly, racist whites have no problem with blacks; they just want blacks on their side and whites on theirs.  Same mentality.

          • Griff

            Is this a riff on “THE END IS COMING”?  If church/state separation were so fragile an institution that, for example, a statehouse creche display could topple it, then it would have perished ages ago.  For the love of God, we have a democracy being taken over by corporations and Wall St., we have a full-blown attack on women’s reproductive rights, we’ve only begun to grant gays the civil rights they deserve, and… I could name a million other worthy, infinitely more pressing causes.  You guys aren’t foes of Fox News, you’re enablers.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              we have a democracy being taken over by corporations and Wall St

              Yep.  We can go talk about that if you want, but I don’t think that’s the topic here.  There are kids starving all over the world.  People without clean drinking water.  Children in sex slavery.  Women being stoned to death for the crime of getting raped.  We’re not restricted to only spend our energy on the very worst problem that exists.

              we have a full-blown attack on women’s reproductive rights, we’ve only begun to grant gays the civil rights they deserve

              Yes.  And both of those are religiously motivated.  No, not your own particular shade of Christianity.  But those battles are both based on a belief in divine revelation.  There are people out there who think it’s reasonable to restrict your rights and my rights based on what they think God says.

              We shouldn’t be picking which divine revelation is right because we can’t.  ”My God Says” is the ultimate non-argument.  Because My God Says Something Else, and we’re nowhere.

              When religion is involved in politics that’s what we’re doing.  Get your inspiration from wherever you want.  All we’re saying is that government should not be picking and choosing any particular divine revelation.  And the only way to do that is to not pick any of them.

              And yes, when we enable Christian Privilege by shutting up and not rocking the boat like good little atheists, we enable policy based on divine revelation.

        • Baby_Raptor

          Ignoring it won’t work. It will end up with all of us nonchristians in camps after the Right takes completely over, rips up the Constitution and implements Leviticus Law.

    • Levon Mkrtchyan

      This is an important battle to fight.  If we take a “this is just a symbol” approach to it, the christian right’s violations of the constitution will simply get more flagrant.

      Martin Niemöller :
      First they came for the communists,and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
      Then they came for the trade unionists,and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
      Then they came for the Jews,and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
      Then they came for meand there was no one left to speak out for me.

      • Frank

        Hyperbole much?

        • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

          It might be a little over the top, but the point is sound. I’ve seen what happens to perfectly ordinary, nice people in places like the Deep South of the U.S. when they out as an atheist. The ostracization is broad, complete and very destructive.

          Theocratic thinking has no place in a modern democracy. And stopping it at the grassroots level is absolutely key.

          • Baby_Raptor

            Agreed. I suffered abuse at a former job and several thousands of dollars in damage to my car simply for having a Liberal bumper sticker on it. I don’t want to know how it would escalate if they found out I’m also atheist. 

            • Tim

              That kind of abuse is shocking.

              But it is kinda touching that you think that the way to stop it is to uphold the Constitution against minor infactions. It isn’t like the fact that it is against the law stopped morons damaging your car. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

      Oops, I liked that instead of replying to it.  Well, anyway, I understand your point of view on this, but I come from the gun-rights movement and our experience has always been that whoever is on defense is losing.  We have also learned the hard way that people who accept small infringements of their rights invite larger and larger infringements until they get fed up enough to go on offense.

      • Christ Denier

        Then I suppose I should be elated that you completely understand the pressure that atheists and agnostics are under because of the Christian Taliban.

    • Xeon2000

      You seem to have a laissez faire attitude towards atheist activism. There are always those with a similar attitude during civil reforms. It sure wasn’t those folks that got women the right to vote, enabled the civil rights movement, or transformed society’s acceptance of the LGBT community. You can thank the real activists in 20 years when we get an atheist president.

      Activism takes place on many different fronts with varying levels of importances. Just because you can ignore this doesn’t mean it shouldn’t change.

      • Griff

        Harassing small towns over their Ten Commandment plaques is a cause remotely in a league with women’s, LGBT, and civil rights?  For the love of Mike, get over yourselves!!!!!

  • Craig Hart

    Oh, please. Get over it. It’s just a symbol of community. Normally, I’m on the atheist side, but in this case: Whine, whine, whine, whine, whine…

    • Thorny264

      Yeh damn equality and fair representation of all religious groups by government, what we need is more Christian symbols and crosses.

      • Griff

        Future historians will shake their heads in wonder over how the popular left, even as the rich bought out its democracy, focused on religious symbols in public.  We are failing our cause.

    • stu

      Separation between Church and State. This is what makes America a Secular country. And this lawsuit isn’t about Atheism, it’s about secularism. What if on the logo was a mosque or the symbol for namaste? Christian groups would be jumping up and down, shouting that the first amendment is a good thing and needs to be upheld. Unless of course it’s interfering with Christian groups pushing religion into the government sector. 

      • Frank

        Why so it that so many people misunderstand the first amendment and the separation do church and state? it exists to keep the government out of religion not religion out of the government.

        • Kodie

          Regurgitation is not knowledge. Do you even know what the word “separation” means? You separate your forks and your spoons, so you don’t get your forks in your spoons AND you don’t get your spoons in your forks. It’s a shame someone has to spell it out for you.

           

          • Frank

            So we should separate a non belief in God from the government?

        • flyb

          notsureifserious.jpg

        • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

          You’re trying to be funny, right?

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            No, he’s a genuine Conservative Christian.  Often helps to click on the person’s avatar and get some context.

            • Griff

              I’m a liberal Christian (and yellow dog Dem) and I concur with Frank.  To wit, the FA instructs Congress.  (Specifically, it grants Congress the sole authority to regulate our liberties and with the caveat that Congress not abridge, damage, etc. those liberties in the process.)  It does not instruct churches, churchgoers, or “religion” itself.  Color me distressed that so many self-described free thinkers would even imagine a founding document  which would dictate the behavior of a popular institution and its members.  I frankly consider secularism an aberration of modern liberalism, an intolerant, anti-populist stance which does worlds of damage to our popular image, as if the media hadn’t already beaten it up enough.

              • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                “It does not instruct churches, churchgoers, or “religion” itself. ”

                Agreed.  Well, some caveats.  Churches should have to follow the same land use planning and zoning laws that everyone else does.  Church goers should not be exempt from prosecution for committing crimes they claim are required by their religion.

                I’m honestly not exactly sure what you’re complaining about.  Can you give an example of something you think a church or churchgoer should be able to do that you think secularism opposes?

                • Griff

                  Well, let’s see–we’re told to stay in our “realm” and to keep our beliefs out of the public square.  I don’t recall ever asking an atheist or non-Christian to stifle themselves in that manner.  But the chief threat from pop secularism, as I see it, is the considerable PR damage done to the left.  Don’t doubt for a minute that we lose the votes of good, decent folk who would share many of our liberal values but happen to be, well, religious.  This constant shit about religion being the great Satan, and Christians necessarily deranged, fascist, etc. takes its toll. I’m told the left was once a pro-populist place, but I guess, even at my age, I’m not old enough to remember such a thing.

                • Kodie

                   You’re talking about it in the public square right now, and no one is stopping you. Correcting you because you’re wrong, and not even Christian “god”-wrong, just persecuted Christian-privilege wrong. Straw man arguments as if we’re censoring you and infringing on your freedom, or that we subscribe to a fundamental urge to shut you up by government force if necessary. Two different fucking things. You can’t wield power by the government, neither can we take away your faith by wielding power by the government. We can persuade you or you can persuade us or we have to agree to disagree about the matter of god, and that’s freedom too. The government has no interest, or shouldn’t have, in that argument. Pretend you’re being persecuted by zealots, it makes you sound real sane and a sound representation of your faith. Basically, I love your freedom as much as mine, and as much as I disagree with your religion, if you want to stick with it, if you want to discuss *IT* actually, and not your meta-problem of being told to sit in a corner, we can discuss it. But you’re saying you’re not as allowed to have your faith because we’d rather have it outside of government agencies. Everywhere else is fine, dude. Why do you pretend you’re some kind of victim here? Nobody’s buying it.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Sigh.  Now we’re going to argue about what “public square” means.

                  When FFRF or AU or SCA talks about public square, they mean all forms of government.  Not “public view”.  Nobody is trying to take down churches, or regulate front lawns, or prayer in public places, or ANY Of that.  We don’t want GOVERNMENT promoting/endorsing a particular religion, or religion in general, OR EVEN LACK OF RELIGION.

                  I know, you can say that’s not true.  But I really think we’re wailing at strawmen here.  Your position that some of these issues are bad for PR and we lose votes is kind of like saying “shut up and don’t rock the boat”.

                  Honestly, most of us are not asking Christians to hide or go away or shut up.  Americans United has more religious members than non.  SCA has many religious affiliation.  Individuals who comment on blog posts aside, the lobbying organizations are not trying to remove religion from society.  They’re trying to remove religion from government.  If you’re against Sharia law, then you should endorse secularism.

                • Griff

                  Sorry for my very late reply.  Rich, I’ll be blunt: I’m weary of the cyber-atheist habit of defining words and terms in such an illiterate fashion.  ”Public square” does not mean “all forms of government,” and there’s great danger to any democracy when we start conflating public and government, if only because the former chooses the latter.  If I’m to accept as neutral the claims that we are a secular government and that religion should stay out the public sphere/square, then I’ll be forced to regard the “Christian nation” worldview as an equally neutral one. After all, if “secular” can mean “neutral,” then, just as logically, so can “religious.”  And “church” can be interpreted as “all buildings in the country.”  The game can be played both ways.

                  By the way: http://grammar.about.com/od/pq/g/publicsphereterm.htm

        • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

           Please tell us that you were just joking. You were kidding, right?

        • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt E

          Epic fail, Frank. If you would bother to read the writings of Jefferson, Adams et al you would know that the intent was to keep government out of religion and religion out of government.

          • Frank

            Ignorance abounds!

            “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.
            — The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution”
            “”[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”"  - Thomas Jefferson

            “To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.
            Gentlemen
            The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
            Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
            I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.
            Th JeffersonJan. 1. 1802

        • Wild Rumpus

           Ha ha ha – so funny!  That almost seems like logic, doesn’t it…  oh wait – you were serious! ohhhh Frank… big fail of understanding there, buddy.

        • Edmond

          Religion in government is called “Sharia” by Muslims.  What do Christians call it?

          • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

            The way things should be (in their eyes). Many of them already think we’re a Christian nation.

        • Baby_Raptor

          You can’t do one and not the other.

          And further, keeping religion out of the government protects everyones’ collective rights to religious freedom. Why do you lot only not scream when it’s Christianity being shoved into the government? You frost your pants over fake ideas of Islamic law being pushed, because then you get to scream persecution. 

          Go read what the founders wrote on the topic. They made it *very* clear that they believed that religion, of any stripe, getting involved in the government would wreck this country. And yes, that includes your pet beliefs. 

        • Griff

          You’re correct–please ignore the insults.  Yes, of course, popular institutions like religion are supposed to “stay out of” government–i.e., not attempt to run it–but the FA says not a thing about that.  Instead, it very clearly gives its directions to Congress, not to churches, not to churchgoers, not to religion.  There is, however, nothing you can say or do that will sway our friends from fervently believing that our founding document in fact places restrictions on “religion.”  What the document actually says is always the last consideration.  Carry on.

      • Tim

        “This is what makes America a Secular country”

        feel free to ignore this European (it is your Constitution after all) but I have to say that you have a very American view of secularism in that you think it is defined by laws rather than what people do and think.  

        • amycas

           Seeing as how, in this context, a secular country means secular in laws (not in the populous), then yes, it would be defined by laws and government action.

    • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

      I’m not terribly worked up over it, but it’s not just a symbol of community.  It’s the symbol of the dominant religion in the region.  There’s a difference.

    • Xeon2000

      I’ll be blunt and simply suggest that you can’t see the forest for the trees.

  • http://www.facebook.com/revacid Jose

    Personally, I’m not offended by the depiction of a church, but, by that same token, it is government endorsing a particular religion. If they removed the cross from the steeple, it would be essentially the same as changing the building completely.

  • Tim

    Well I’m British so I guess I may have a different perspective here, but I really don’t see that this is worth making a fuss about. 

    I don’t see it as endorsing Christianity any more than the 3-crosses present in my country’s flag. or the city logo endorses golf or factory chimney’s.

    The day will come when Churches are interesting relics of a Christian past (just like factory chimneys are interesting relics of an industrial past).  I don’t see this logo delaying that day. 

    • Tim

      …BTW, what a weird name for a town.  Is there a Michigan, Wyoming?

      • Lee Miller

        In my state, Missouri, there is a Paris, Versailles, Mexico, Louisiana, Washington, Florida . . . the list goes on and on.  However, it looks like there is no Michigan, Wyoming.

        • Tim

          Thanks for the reply.  Shame there isn’t a Michigan, Wyoming…

          Tim (Bath, England)

          • Dave

             There is an Alaska, Michigan too, and it’s not far from Wyoming. BTW, Wyoming isn’t the tiny little out-of-the-way little town no one has heard of. It’s one of the larger suburbs of Michigan’s second largest city Grand Rapids.

      • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

        Could be.  :D  We do that a lot here.  My state (Illinois) has Paris, Berlin (just a township outside New Berlin,) Cairo, Athens, Bath, Alhambra, Naples, Belgium, Caledonia, Detroit, Hamburg, Edinburg, Glasgow . . . . . on and on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rich-Rodgers/1621390164 Rich Rodgers

    I agree that this seems a pretty minor issue at first. But there have been previous rulings by the courts that allowed much more unconstitutional things to stand on the grounds that “no one has complained before now”. So I say complain now and complain loudly. Again, it seems almost inconsequential, but being told to “get over it” is hardly the answer. If nothing else, christians need to start realizing they share their space and government with others. Plus, their reactions are hysterically nonsensical sometimes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

      The squeaky wheel . . . exists!  

  • Jean1

    I live in a small town that was founded as a Moravian community.   For 100 years only Moravians were permitted to live here.   No, the town does not use the image of a church as its logo, but I think it would be historically appropriate.

    This is a lovely town but it is very very Christian(not just Moravian) to the point where I do not mow my lawn on Sunday.  There are 45 churches for a population of 9,000.  Everyone talks about church and miracles and god’s will, etc.    The local library has a wall of Christian fiction.  I certainly am not open about my atheism.

    • Reality

      They have a wall of bibles?  Seems like overkill.

      Also, you should start mowing on Sunday.  

    • amycas

       I would mow my lawn on Sunday.

  • Oz

    I find the Sharia law quote by one of the locals laughable.  I ran across yet another instance of a small town praying to Jesus in a government meeting.  This time it’s the Sheriff giving the prayer.  That’s literally Christian law in that small town: http://www.knowpickens.com/spotlight/govt/commissionerjune2012.asp  

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    While an obscure image on a city logo doesn’t harm me, the overall Christian privilege does.  Taken on their own, these are all pretty insignificant.  Taken as a whole, they represent an assumption that constitutional principles don’t matter.  Might is right.  The minority can just shut up and ignore it.

    It’s a long hardened blindness that affects all of us, ‘NONE’s included.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tina-Loving/100001333023378 Tina Loving

    I think atheists should let christians sponsor christianity using government monies anyway they like; we are the minority afterall.

    • Thorny264

      Hang on, did you just say christians are the minority or did I read that wrong?

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I think she’s saying she’s an atheist who thinks that since Christians are the majority, that Christians should have access to government money to sponsor Christianity.

  • Duke OfOmnium

    If there is an architecturally or historically significant church building in town, then I could see the inclusion of the church in the logo as reasonable (“Lucius C. Wyoming himself hauled the 40-ton slabs of limestone 300 miles in the snow to build St. Buffy’s Church.”)  If, however, the import of the logo is to show that Wyomingites are devout, and that makes the town a good place to live/work/go cowtipping, then they can go bleep themselves.

    • The Other Weirdo

       St. Buffy’s Church? Do we have to attend worship, or is just owning all 7 seasons + the movie enough?

      • Duke OfOmnium

        I’m not sure.  But it’s just across from the Church of Our Lady of Jody, and down the street from Temple Beth Mr. French  (that’s old school Buffy!)

  • Lee Miller

    That is just plain scary.  Moravians, of all things.  Wow.

  • David McNerney

    If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t put money on either side winning this.

    The picture is of 4 typical buildings/locations in a town.  Ask someone in the town to name 4 landmarks… they might name these 4.  (Maybe they could lose the cross off the top.)

    • Kodie

      I think having a golf course on the seal is weird. I know people like their golf, and maybe they do give driving directions that have to pass by their golf course. As a person who likes critiquing logos, this one is just weird. It’s not an ancient seal like many towns are, it is modern and recently designed. It looks like it was meant to revitalize the city not very long ago, like the 60s or so, bring it up to date. It’s near Grand Rapids, says the city website, so they want to make it look like a nice place to live, factories to work, golf to play, and church. Whoever designed it was like to throw a bunch of elements from a list, and it’s just kind of yuck to look at anyway. The silhouettes of the elements is… I don’t know how to say. There are few buildings you can identify by their silhouette, and churches and factories and houses are 3 of them. It’s cheaper to print and easier to incorporate on letterhead or signage without someone squinting and tilting their head to figure it out. Their courthouse/city hall looks like my high school, it’s round in the middle and doesn’t look like a “landmark” you could identify unless you already live there, unlike most really old landmark city halls. I live in Boston with one of the ugliest, and it’s not on the seal either. Wyoming’s looks like an office park built in the 80s or 90s, it just doesn’t stand out.

      Contrasted with my hometown seal, a tree and a farm with a dirt road. We do have farms, but most people who live there commute to work in an office. All our “landmarks” are built in the last 30-50 years, save for the now-defunct railroad crossing. Should it be updated? I’m kind of traditional, but if it had a church on it, I’d be ok with taking it off. A tree is nice. It doesn’t say much about the town, but it’s not offensive. Basically, what are they going to do if they have a 4-main things to remember about Wyoming, MI seal, either redesign the whole thing to a picture of a horse or a gun or a fish, (??????) or, I don’t know. The whole seal is kind of fucked the way it is, with or without the church, in my opinion.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/P4AAPMJK52N5YKKWX55C36QHRQ Jorge

    They should make the symbol the one that says coexist with all the different religious symbols and the scarlet letter A. include everyone. see if that would be better. I bet they would protest the hell out of that and call it an attack on christianity.

  • Matto the Hun

    Christians need to put into practice the Muslim test. Replace the Christian symbol with a Muslim symbol and watch them shit a literal brick… aaaaaaaand that’s why there should be no religious representation.

    What stupid, selfish, hypocrites.

  • Joe Zamecki

    I support this effort to secularize a government logo. For those who think this is petty, consider this: If we only focused on the really big problems of religion, we’d be discouraged all the time. Disappointed. Dejected. All because we’d never score a victory. Well I say we need to focus on as many of these problems as we possibly can. When we don’t, the other side simply says “You never complained before…”  Let’s not make them right about that. 

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    They should see this as an opportunity to redesign a pretty terrible logo. I mean… a golf course?

    • Thackerie

       My first thought, too. I guess the city is awfully proud to have houses, factories, golf courses, and christian churches. The “thinking” must have been that no other city has such amenities.

      • http://twitter.com/ylaenna M. Elaine

        You have no idea.  I used to work* in the vicinity and found it to be pretty depressing. Needless to say, I relocated.

        *Not surprisingly, the company I worked for had cubicles festooned with bible verses.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    To those who think atheists are wrong to go after minor issues like this (and no doubt… the seal of a small town hardly anybody has heard of is minor), I suggest you think about the concept embodied in the expression death by a thousand cuts.

    When you are standing up for fundamental rights, no infraction is too small to challenge.

  • Mehman

    Meh. It’s just a Logo. There are better things people can spend their time on.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      We ARE spending our time on better things. Removing the Christianity from the logo is merely step one towards dismantling Christian privilege in the U.S.

    • Kari Lynn

      Would you say that if, instead of a church, they had a swastika?

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      I’m kind of tired of this attitude. It assumes that this is the ONLY thing that FFRF, or any atheist for that matter, is focusing on at this point in time.  You DO realize that organizations can focus on more than one matter at any given time, right?

  • The Other Weirdo

    For the woman who wants to spite us evil atheists by putting up a theistic sign on her own private property(something she’s perfectly entitled to do), here’s how the FFRF can troll her. Have them make up a legalistic-sounding overwrought letter that, when boiled down to its essentials, says that  her sign on private property in no way violates the law or the Constitution, and congratulates her on being in no way contrary to the law. Watch her freak out.

    • ReadsInTrees

      I love this. Do it.

  • Bruce_wright

     The way they react tells me it’s not just a symbol.  It’s an attitude.  They want atheists and religious pluralists to treat it like no big deal.  But by the way they react, to them it’s anything but.

  • WoodwindsRock

    I suppose I’m not really seeing the issue with this. I am strongly against things like the national motto being “In God We Trust”, because that national motto speaks for us all. However, this is a city logo, and the church is not the only thing in it. It’s pretty much just acknowledging that maybe the church is a big thing to that town in general, and it’s not even the only symbol used in that logo. It seems pretty fair to me. Maybe I’m not seeing things right…

    Although “progress” does make me laugh.

  • ReadsInTrees

    I think that if they remove the cross, they should be good. Then it’s just an obscure land mark. We have churches that have been converted to other things, but still have a steeple (there is one in Lisbon Falls, Maine, that now houses a stain glass studio and museum, as well as a beautiful insect exhibit). 

    My own city has a church on the city seal, but it’s just part of an illustration of the city’s skyline. There is also a factory smoke stack and a ship mast.

  • vexorian

    In the US, it may be small and such, but it is still not legal.

    Littering is a very small thing, but if we let everyone litter…

  • cipher

    A better complaint would be that the name of the town is confusing.

  • ck03

    “The best way to tick off the FFRF is to e-mail them and tell them that you are going to pray for them.”

    How is this going to piss anyone off?  They are telling them they are going to do nothing…

    • Kodie

      One of the things I notice in these, uh, conversations is how the Christians who are idolizing a material icon of their faith is that many of them believe atheists treat the cross like a vampire would, and that they are actually intent on killing us through prayer and expressing religious freedom on their own property. You take away 1 cross and put up 1000 crosses somewhere else, and we’re supposed to weep at the futility of trying to wipe Christianity off the face of the earth, we’re supposed to cringe in pain and shrivel up and die. In one of the last threads, someone hoped I would come to town and see all the crosses and hoped it would ruin my day. They think the cross burns our skin to the touch and shatters our sanity to see, and they gloat in positive vengeance at their resilience in the face of loss – of a logo or a symbol surrounding their faith, as if their faith is comprised by the symbol itself and not a relationship with their savior that takes place in their thoughts and imaginations. You will be sorry, FFRF! You will be so sorry you took it away from us, because we’re going to PRAY for you!

      Pray for them for what? To hear god and get saved? To stop bullying the poor persecuted Christians? Doesn’t sound like that’s what they have in mind.

  • MaryD

    There must be some special Atheists’ Constitution being referred to here.

    Amendment 1 to the US Constitution states:  ” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof…”

    The restriction, such as it is, applies to Congress alone. In the absence of any other law this city can do whatever it likes with its logo.

    In this particular instance it should be obvious to anyone that there are four generic graphics intended to represent housing, industry, leisure and faith. I don’t think it is a calculated insult to the apartment-dwelling, bar keeping, baseball-loving Sikh or any other combination one couldcome up with.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Well, we might as well get rid of the supreme court then.  If they can’t even read the constitution, then what good are they?

    • Anonymous Atheist

      The US Constitution and amendments absolutely do NOT apply to Congress/federal government alone.
      I guess you (and all the other ignorant usually-rightwingers out there) have never heard of the 14th Amendment and the incorporation principle, which made explicit what should have already been obviously necessary.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incorporation_of_the_Bill_of_Rights

  • http://www.facebook.com/markfheil Mark Heil

    As an example of mid-century industrial graphic art its kind of a cool logo, but the church has to go.

    Would including a church in such a logo or seal ever be acceptable?  I believe it would only if the logo were featuring ACTUAL buildings of architectural significance. For instance, a portrayal of the city’s skyline that happens to include a church. 

  • Alan Williamson

    Why a church and not a mosque?

  • Grammar Moses

    Ok, but where are my people in this? The ones who see a short list of states instead of a city? Where, in the name of Dog, is the comma?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Vasagi BJ Shaffer

    As a resident of SW Michigan, neighboring the city of Wyoming, I have to say that right now would be a perfect time to redesign the city logo.  Wyoming is just now wrapping up demolition of the old GM metals/stamping plant on 36th st, which was the biggest factory in the area.  It was almost certainly what the factory on the logo represented – and it’s been closed for years.
    The recession’s hit us hard, and it’s been hitting Michigan for much longer than the rest of the country.  We have more than our share of vacant homes and factories, which leads to empty golf courses and closed churches eventually.

  • anon101

    I hope the FFRF loses just to make you pause and think for a moment. Although I’m not going to hold my breath.

  • Steve

    It’s unfortunate that some atheist here are speaking for all of us by stating “we” don’t want less religion, ‘we’ just want government neutral…”

    I am an atheist who wants NO religion anywhere. It hinders clear thought and technological progress. It promotes violence, death, and divides people. The tiresome “I don’t care what you believe, just keep it to yourself” nonsense only guarantees that future generations of our delusional society will continue. It’s people, who sit on their hands and speak those apathetic words, who are partly to blame for city logos like this still existing. If we can prohibit people from believing 4 year-olds are suitable sexual partners, than we can certainly decide what other warped and twisted beliefs should be eliminated.

    All illogical beliefs, which negatively affect others, are just that. Period. Religion is no different. Defy it, or accept it.

    • Kodie

      I think it’s both, for a lot of us, but I’m not in favor of government intervention in the obliteration of religious belief. Thought police are bad. These arguments pertain to one narrow issue (for some, it’s the only issue) and yes, as pertains to the 1st amendment, I am not in favor of violating it in hypocrisy.

      Religion can be dangerous, but that’s left to private, non-governmental discussions to open up thinking and pertinent topics about how and where religion poses danger.  I would like to see a less religious society, but not by force or will of government. Allow people to be free in their minds, to come or not come to atheism, to explore their own thoughts and share with others in freedom. That’s not the purpose of these efforts; the purpose of these secular government efforts is to uphold the 1st amendment and the freedom of religion among the people as a natural result of taking it out of government. They are also free to change their mind, and it’s important to me and a lot of people to keep it that way. I also think most of us have religious friends or family whom we don’t hate, and these people aren’t bothering anything as long as they can’t make laws that endorse their religion and infringe on others’ rights. For many people, the most dangerous of religion is laws that infringe other people based on their imaginary friend or their holy book, and one step at a time, the rest is mostly harmless superstition. People need to explore that on their own, not have it enforced on them, but it’s called out plenty. 

      • Steve

        The corrupt and murderous lunatics, who hurt, and even kill, in the name of gods, all had friends and family whom we “didn’t hate” or “bothered anything”. Those friends and family are the one’s who passed on their nonsensical beliefs. Will your religious family member pass on their beliefs to some future creep? Will mine? Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s just sit back and not care. Let them decide for themselves. We don’t want to offend delusional people. 

        Good plan.

        • Kodie

           I never said I didn’t care. I just said it’s two different things. Would you rather force atheism on people not convinced? Do you think that will magically solve all the problems you described? Secular government and 1st amendment freedoms are important to uphold. The government makes no issue to ban thoughts or beliefs any more than they are supposed to imply that one of those is correct and issue laws based on imaginary beings. The rest of us in our freedom discuss and educate and mock and all that other shit that’s important too. We’re not going to convince everyone, but only by this purposeful discussion is it a resource of education. I don’t get why you think we’re just sitting back and trying not to offend delusional people. I think you might be being too literal in your reading here, but secular government efforts by necessity compartmentalize what’s wrong with religion. Supporting the 1st amendment to act like it should is to propose neutrality and freedom, just like government and have nothing -in this topic- to do with stamping out religion by pointing out what’s wrong with it. We do discuss that plenty, so don’t make up garbage arguments that we don’t care as long as we secularize the government, then everything will finally be cool.

          And just to clarify further, none of us, I don’t think, are using this secularization issue as a lever to rid the land of religious belief, which is how it’s mistaken by some people like our buddy Griff. Civil rights is one important aspect, and some people are fine with just taking care of that, and focus on that in threads that are about that. With freedom comes the freedom to discuss freely, and it’s never going to be the government’s job to tell anyone how to believe or not believe. That comes naturally from removing Christian privilege of having government explicitly prefer their team over ours, the reasonable discussions and persuasions amongst ourselves, apart from government interference. And there’s always the risk in freedom that most people can come to believe the wrong thing, but that’s not because we sit back and let it happen. Please stop insisting things like that because it’s not true.

          • Steve

            Yes, I realize this thread is about religion’s place in government. But when someone here assumed that we all sing Kumbaya alongside of believers, I had to set the record straight.
            No, nobody can force people into atheism (yet). The goal should be to educate people with the truth (instead of all this “believe what you want” and ‘tolerance’ BS). Eventually, just as other common practices throughout our history have been outlawed, the practice of religion can then be outlawed. But first, we have to make it extremely unpopular. How does “freedom of religion” accomplish that? It doesn’t. It can’t. It never will. Believers must be “taught” to reject religion, just as they were “taught” to accept it.Nobody here still has addressed why, after “forcing” people not to be able to marry 15 year-olds, or not be able to beat their non-obediant children, or not be able to own slaves… all acceptable past beliefs… why it’s so different to “force” people to give up the talking snakes, parting seas, and other ancient garbage that slows our progress. Not telling believers that they’re religions are myths, is as harmful to our society as waking by a woman being raped and doing nothing… then complaining about why there are rapists.

          • Steve

            By the way… there is nothing “thoughtful” or “free” about religion. it is “taught”. 

            If ADULTS want to dream up fantasies on their own, that’s out of our control… but we CAN end organized institutions brainwashing our children with nonsense. 

            We’ve abolished other former beliefs from our society. Why is undoing another harmful belief suddenly a violation of freedom? What is the problem with not allowing children to be “taught” to walk around delusional about an invisible man living in the sky, while hindering our cultural progress for more centuries to come? What’s the difference all of a sudden? Is it because we should never question the founding fathers? Perhaps we shouldn’t tell children that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, either. That would violate their rights.

            Sigh…

            • Kodie

              They have to be free to come to another conclusion or it will be meaningless. They have to see the lack of religion is not a scary thing, and all we can do right now is talk about it and let them come to us when they’re willing, and try to minimize religions’ effect in public policy, so the rest of us aren’t encumbered with laws that don’t apply to us, that come from the imaginary instead of from sense and reason. People do shed their religious beliefs, they do reason it out, they talk to people, they change how they raise their kids or they have it out with their own parents. It’s not a quick process or something you can just outlaw religion; only outlaw religious intrusion in government. Let them make their own laws as long as they don’t break ours, and keep the door open. That’s how it’s done, and the only way that it’s done. You know, unless you love backlash bigger than people clinging to a cross on an official city emblem like it’s actually Jesus, or secret tribes of superstitious people plotting in their bunkers. We’re actually a lot safer with them walking around in daylight, and I like freedom. Your way is sounds like, what if they were in charge and outlawed your way of thinking? What if they think you’re the dangerous one? We’re free to speak our minds (technically, in theory, which is a great step) in public, and draw attention to ourselves for the benefit of availability, an option they otherwise would fear or be isolated from and never break from for having no one to talk to and nowhere to go. That’s how freedom works for everyone.

              You just sound like you haven’t thought it through. The dream would be a world in which people did not come up with or cling to crazy hair-brained superstitions of how the world works, and they’d be educated, curious, and rational. How do you think that would ever come about by force? Outlawing religious entanglement in the government is in the 1st Amendment and we are addressing these things, but with that comes the assurance that government will not take it away from the people. You would not want the government telling you what you have to think and legally prevent you from changing your mind, and police your thoughts.

    • Griff

      Well, Steve, you just go ahead and wipe out those thoughts and beliefs you don’t approve of–that, there, is what democracy is all about.  Yeeee-hawww!!!

      After all, it’s YOUR fucking democracy.  By your leave, God.

      • Steve

        You approve of child abuse, rape, slavery? All beliefs.

        But, then it’s not my responsibility to educate you or make you a fool. You go ahead and walk around with your mentality. Good luck.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

    Griff, you seem to have a hard time understanding this, and since the comments organization here is clunky, let’s start over.

    Do you agree or disagree that the government is not allowed to endorse, or show any preference toward, any religious belief in regards to legislature and operation of publicly-owned and funded facilities (such as public schools)? Also, can we agree on defining secularism as “ensuring our government not take any sides in regards to religious belief”? If not, then what does it mean to you? And please, no quoting the dictionary, because I’m already going by what the dictionary says on the matter.

  • coreypaul

    im embarrassed to be an American some times, I have even apologized for the coutry a few times in person and a few times on line to people. Its like, we are the cave men, carrying big sticks, and instead of learning how to build fire, we go from community to community and steal all their woman and kill all their kids, grunt alot, think this is a good way to live and that our power to take over others, makes us the ones that know what is right all the time. have to say, man has always acted this way, at one time maybe they had to to survive, but that was prior to Columbus and any other fool who abused his power. now its just for greed and control. its such a character that is on a humans “lower” level of developement. I dont see the happier countries running around trying to destroy the world so they can control it.