McAlester, Oklahoma May Remove Christian Silhouettes From Street Signs

If you’re driving around McAlester, Oklahoma, you might see street signs topped with images like these:

In fact there are about 150 of those silhouettes atop street signs in the city — illegal government endorsements of Christianity, all of them.

To their credit, the McAlester City Council is considering taking pre-emptive action and removing the silhouettes before a lawsuit comes their way. It’d be a smart move on their part.

The residents, who don’t seem to care about how their tax money is wasted, are not taking it very lightly:

Roughly 150 people showed up at the McAlester city council meeting Tuesday night, filling council chambers and two overflow rooms. Almost all of them demanded the silhouettes with crosses be put back up. A petition with more than 1800 signatures was also presented to the council in support of the silhouettes.

Ninety-nine percent of the people here are Christian,” James Prince, Chairman of the Gaines Creek Association of Oklahoma Free Will Baptists, said. “We’re just tired of being pushed around.”

Prince said his group, like many other Christians, want to preserve a Christian way of life in the area.

“This country was built by Judeo-Christians,” [Prince] said. “And we intend to bring that back.”

City manager Pete Stasiak said the city attorney has been very clear: the silhouettes endorse a specific religion and that is unconstitutional.

“Nobody has come forward at this point and talked about a lawsuit,” Stasiak said.

But they could. And such lawsuits can get very expensive for a city.

That is the power of groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation. That is the Broken Window Theory in action: The simple threat of being sued may be enough to fix the problem.

The city council will revisit this issue at their next meeting on September 11th. It’d be great to see some support for the church/state separation side.

On a side note, I don’t know why the Christian spokespeople in the area aren’t just more honest about their intentions. Instead of worrying about these silhouettes, let’s see them fight to put up signs in City Hall reading “Jews not wanted.” That seems to be the gist of what they want, anyway. It’s a place for them and only them. Down with Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, Christians who don’t attend their church, and everyone else not like them, right?

(Thanks to Kimberly for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • newavocation

    Love the Fox News reporting, 150 
    silhouettes = just a handful. But it’s nice that they bring up the church and cross issue on the city seal.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    “Being pushed around?”  For Pete’s sake you have your own damn parking spot. 

  • Jcleech

    In the top picture isn’t the person on the right looking for a contact lens?

    • http://twitter.com/moother moother

      nope, he’s cleaning the priest’s santorum off the altar.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    “This country was built by Judeo-Christians,” [Prince] said.

    I love how they stick in “Judeo” without even realizing what it means. Why are there no Star of David silhouettes?

    • Miko

      Unless you’ve been to the city in question, how do you know that there aren’t?  Contra Hemant’s bizarre argument in his final paragraph, there’s no reason to suppose that the desire of some Christians to promote their religion on signs related to their church automatically implies that they want to oppress other religions.  I would expect that many or even most of them would be perfectly happy to put a Star of David silhouette on the “synagogue parking only” signs.

    • Alex

      I think it’s a code for “I might be a bigot, but at least I’m not an anti-Semite! Yay me!”

  • grerp

    Accommodation is slow suicide.  What’s more, you know that; you just hate their culture  & so are happy to see it die.  If they don’t want the same, they should fight back.  The courts are hostile to religious people, and they may have to take the signs down from public property.  But there are plenty of other ways to assert cultural primacy.  They should pursue them.

    • Pansies4me

      “But there are plenty of other ways to assert cultural primacy. They should pursue them.” 

      Your religious/Christian privilege is showing. Let’s suppose that the U.S. population was overwhelmingly atheist. I don’t think for one minute you would be happy with signs saying “Your god doesn’t exist” everywhere on *public property*. I am just as much of a U.S. citizen as you are, like it or not. The Bill of Rights was intended to guard against the tyranny of the majority. The majority of people in this country are also white. So are we supposed to put up skinhead iconography everywhere?

      • grerp


        Your religious/Christian privilege is showing.”  

        Do you think that bothers me?  What happens when you stop defending your Christian privilege?  They shoot your priests up against a brick wall and send you to the gulag.  

        Humans are tribal.  Is there a whisper of a chance that when the non-religious achieve their goals they will extend tolerance to Christians?  Not if history is correct.  It’s conform or be cast out, and I have no interest in being cast out of the culture I was born and raised in.

        • Vision_From_Afar

          Well, at least you’re honest, if a bit misguided.

          • TheBlackCat

            “A bit”?

        • Pansies4me

          So let me get this straight. A group of people (religious minorities as well as atheists) are merely asking that the government remain neutral in matters of religion, and somehow that equates to shooting priests and sending them to the gulag? That’s quite a leap there.  I was born and raised in the United States, where there is a diversity of humanity. Not sure where you come from.

          You deserve all manner of condemnation for your attitude, but I won’t resort to calling you names. Nor do I expect you to even listen to reason. This is my last response to you because you don’t care about others who aren’t in your tribe, so it would be foolish to waste my time. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that “It’s conform or be cast out” is what you expect of everyone who isn’t Christian, and are apparently happy to be so hateful.  I actually feel sorry for you. I want you to have the same rights as me, no more no less. Humans are tribal to be sure, but I for one realize the biggest tribe we belong to is Humanity. 

          Again, don’t bother to respond to me. I’ve said my peace to you.

          • grerp

            My point is: I don’t think this is about Constitutionality, not really.  It’s about power.  If you succeed in having all public places scrubbed of religious references or behavior, will you be happy with just that?  

            Based on the comments I’ve read on this forum in the last several days, I don’t believe you (collectively) want religious people to have the same rights.  I think you (collectively) want them to deconvert and abandon their Christian culture: conform or be cast out.  Then they will not interfere with the future as you wish to create it.  

            I’m viewing this as objectively as I can as someone who has read reams of histories and talked to numerous people who were persecuted for their religion.  I’ve lived in the former Soviet Union.  I’m pretty sure the Orthodox faithful had no idea of what was coming their way in 1917. And I’ve  volunteered in the Bosnian refugee community – composed of (unobservant) Muslims who never thought they’d be killed for their “faith.”   These kinds of violent outbreaks often happen suddenly.  Some signs are there, but most people assume that how they feel about others is the same way others feel about them.  And, sadly, that is not always the case.  

            I have atheist friends and Buddhist friends and Catholic friends and fundamentalist friends.  I keep my religious thoughts to myself in mixed company.  I don’t think invocations at government functions are a good idea and I don’t think signage should be religious.  I do, however, think that societal forces are trying to push religious expression into the private corners of home and church, and I don’t think people should have to practice their religion in secret or act as if it’s shameful.  Each and every one of these lawsuits is a small declaration of war on the (Christian) majority culture.  And I would advise these towns to take those declarations seriously and to realize the extreme hostility that some people feel for them.

            The rhetoric here towards Christians is dehumanizing.  The first step towards being able to hurt your neighbor is to think of him as not the same, as lesser, than you are.  

            I don’t force people to conform to my beliefs; I have lived as a minority and I know how it feels, but I don’t think I’m particularly representative.  Tolerance is not the norm.

            • TheBlackCat

              “My
              point is: I don’t think this is about Constitutionality, not really.
               It’s about power.  If you succeed in having all public places scrubbed
              of religious references or behavior, will you be happy with just that?”

              No, because that is not even what we want.  We just want the government to stay completely out of religion.  As long as they do that, I will be happy.

              “Based on the comments I’ve read on this forum in the last several
              days, I don’t believe you (collectively) want religious people to have
              the same rights.  I think you (collectively) want them to deconvert and
              abandon their Christian culture: conform or be cast out.  Then they will
              not interfere with the future as you wish to create it.  ”

              That is what we call “projection”.  You are so mired in your “us vs. them” attitude that you are incapable of even contemplating the idea that not everyone shares the same attitude you do.  It is really quite sad.

              “I’m viewing this as objectively as I can as someone who has read
              reams of histories and talked to numerous people who were persecuted for
              their religion.  I’ve lived in the former Soviet Union.  I’m pretty
              sure the Orthodox faithful had no idea of what was coming their way in
              1917. And I’ve  volunteered in the Bosnian refugee community – composed
              of (unobservant) Muslims who never thought they’d be killed for their
              “faith.”

              But this can only happen if one religious group is allowed to get dominance over the government, which is exactly what we are trying to avoid here.

              ” These kinds of violent outbreaks often happen suddenly.  Some
              signs are there, but most people assume that how they feel about others
              is the same way others feel about them.  And, sadly, that is not always
              the case.  ”

              This is a lesson you failed to learn, apparently.  Just because you are full of hate and animosity, does not mean everyone else is.

              “I don’t think invocations at government functions are a good
              idea and I don’t think signage should be religious.  I do, however,
              think that societal forces are trying to push religious expression into
              the private corners of home and church,”

              We live in a country where it is impossible to be elected president without being openly and vocally Christian.  We live in a country where the majority of people will not vote for an atheist candidate even if he or she was the best qualified for the job, by a large margin over any other demographic.  We live in a country where our holidays, our weekends, even our money is based on Christianity.  We live in a country where there are countless religious billboards and ads all over, yet a single atheist billboards leads to death threats, people quitting their job, and even vandalism. 

              Your perspective on this issue is so totally opposite of reality that it would be funny if it weren’t constantly used as an excuse to enshrine Christianity even more deeply in U.S. soceity.

              “and I don’t think people should
              have to practice their religion in secret or act as if it’s shameful. ”

              Good thing no one is asking for this.

              ” Each and every one of these lawsuits is a small declaration of war on
              the (Christian) majority culture.  And I would advise these towns to
              take those declarations seriously and to realize the extreme hostility
              that some people feel for them.

              Again, your privilege and projection is showing here.  A long discriminated-against minority simply wants equal rights, but to you this is a war on your privilege. 

              “The rhetoric here towards Christians is dehumanizing.  The first step
              towards being able to hurt your neighbor is to think of him as not the
              same, as lesser, than you are. ”

              The only one who is dehumanizing anyone is you.  You are advocating stripping non-Christians of their rights after comparing them to mass-murders.

              “Tolerance is not the norm.”

              That is exactly what we are trying to change, and exactly why we oppose people like you who can’t stand tolerence.

            • RobMcCune

              So you don’t think freedom can work, since tolerance is not the norm? Is the only way for a society to exist to have one world view be dominant? Consequently is any differing idea of the way the world should be automatically a threat? If so how should it be dealt with?

            • Pansies4me

              I said I wouldn’t do it, but your utter hypocrisy is simply astounding. To wit- “The first step towards being able to hurt your neighbor is to think of him as not the same, as lesser, than you are.” You speak of “cultural primacy”. From the New Oxford American Dictionary: primacy (n) the fact of being primary, preeminent, or more important.

              A simply amazing example of someone talking out of both sides of her mouth. You get the gold medal in mental gymnastics.

              Now I’m done with you. 

  • Xeon2000

    “Ninety-nine percent of the people here are Christians,” James Prince, Chairman of the Gaines Creek Association of Oklahoma Free Will Baptists, said. “We’re just tired of being pushed around.”

    …said the biggest schoolyard bully.

  • Jaime Cruz Sosa

    “Ninety-nine percent of the people here are Christian. .. We’re just tired of being pushed around.”
    Only they can claim to be an oppressed majority and keep a straight face.

  • Foster

    I think in a just society, they would allow communities to represent their cultural heritage, religious or otherwise, on their city architecture.  You may as well sue the President for saying “God bless America,” in a speech.  The founders did not intend for separation of church and state to mean that symbols of religious significance should be stricken from history.

    Rather they were aiming at a society where everyone gets a fair trial, an honest hearing and can believe what they want.  Religiously and culturally significant icons, like a cross-adorned church on a city seal, do not detract from that social justice.  I would say that a community of mostly muslims should feel free to place crescents on their buildings as well–just so long as they don’t attempt to institute sharia law in the civil courts or deny me a job for being Roman Catholic.

    • http://www.facebook.com/WalrusInc Ted Thompson

      It’s cool that you are able to tell what the founders wanted. Amazing trick that.  And separating into tribes per someones religious persuasion is most assuredly not what America is about, even though thats what your “community majority rules” statement would bring about. And I’m sure you don’t want sharia law, but you’d be just happy with the christian equivalent wouldn’t you?

      • Foster

        Ted, if you read what I wrote, I did not say I could tell ALL of what the founders wanted, which would be very useful indeed.  Instead, I said they did not want “symbols of religious significance [to] be stricken from history” nor is that necessitated by any historically American idea of separation of church and state. This is evident when you look at the capital buildings which are full of images from mythology.  It’s evident when you look on our money, our pledge of allegiance, and others.  

        Last time I checked, “community majority rules” is synonymous with “democracy,” which I have no problem with when it comes to something as trivial as decorations on sign posts.What is even cooler is your assumption that you are able to tell what *I* want with regard to government.  At least the founders left behind documents and a working structure of government, but you base your conclusion that *I’d* want a theocracy off of no evidence whatsoever.  You are incorrect, by the way.  I am happy with the government the founders envisioned and informed us of through the Constitution, Federalist papers, and other works.

        • TheBlackCat

           “symbols of religious significance [to] be stricken from history”

          I dare you to find anyone who is requesting that.  What we want is the government to not favor one religion over another.

          “This is evident when you look at the capital buildings which are full of images from mythology.”

          But those don’t put one mythology above all others, which is the problem with these signs.  We have no problem when all religions are treated equally, the problem is when one is singled out for special treatment, be it positive or negative.

          “It’s evident when you look on our money”

          The founding fathers didn’t put anything religious on our money, the first appearance of “in god we trust” on U.S. currency didn’t happen until about 3/4 of a century after the U.S. constitution was written, and didn’t go on paper currency until the 1950′s during the McArthy era.

          “our pledge of allegiance, ”

          The pledge of allegiance wasn’t even written until well over a century after the U.S. was founded.  There was no mention of god in it until the 1950′s, either.

          “Last time I checked, “community majority rules” is synonymous with
          “democracy,” which I have no problem with when it comes to something as
          trivial as decorations on sign posts.”

          Good thing that we don’t live in a democracy, we live in a constitutional republic.  One of of the primary objectives of having a constitution is to avoid “community majority rules” by putting limits on what the majority is allowed to do.  Using the government to establish their religion as the primary one is one of the things the constitution set out to avoid.

          Please, if you are going to start lecturing people about the founding fathers, please at least learn the basics of the history of the subject, as well as the basics of how our government works.

  • Barbara

    “This country was built by Judeo-Christians,” [Prince] said. “And we intend to bring that back.”
    James Prince, you should be ashamed of yourself. America is certainly not a country defined by one particular religion. If you would walk outside your narrow house of baptist believers, open your eyes, and perk up your ears, you’d know that. Why can’t you be content with professing your faith to your god without stepping into secular territory? Stop trying to make everyone else adhere to your unproven beliefs (that have brought a lot more shame than pride to humanity, btw).

    • Reason_Being

       Well said Barbara.  This country was not founded on Judeo-Christian tradition.  In fact, in many ways it was a break from that tradition.  To make a statement like Prince’s one needs to have a pretty myopic worldview.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    You know, the churches probably have private signs in their own parking lots.  The city could take these off the city signs, and they could go up on the church signs instead.  I suppose they could sell the signs at auction, or hold a citywide lottery to give them away, or some other way where the city is not donating them directly to the churches, but the churches that want them can put them up on their own. 

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    If they’re just affixed to church parking signs, I wouldn’t care.  Why not sell the silhouettes to people who’d like to put them on their own property?

  • nakedanthropologist

    “…this country was built by Judeo-Christians…” So fucking what?  The southern agrarian economy was built on the backs of slaves.  Does that mean that only slaves or their descendants should live in the south?  Hell fucking no!  It doesn’t matter that a high percentage of the first white people to live in the north american continent were Christians (who helped slaughter millions of indigenous peoples already here in the Americas).  The United States is a country for the people, by the people, and of the people – and the people (who are all equal citizens) are not all Christians. Get over it. 

  • http://socialrants.tumblr.com/ Social Rants

    According to Wiki, McAlester is “It is currently the largest city in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma” so the city wasn’t built on Christian beliefs, it was built on Choctaw beliefs.

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      Well, it was built indirectly on Christian beliefs.  Christians at the time believed that Indians were savages and it was their God given right to claim this land.  Thus forcing the Choctaw  from their original home in the southeast to Oklahoma.

  • Mike

    ““Jews not wanted.” That seems to be the gist of what they want, anyway. ”

    I’m not sure that’s accurate. Remember, these people are watching Fox news, listening to preachers telling them how the homo’s are taking over ‘Merica. These people aren’t exactly deep thinking. If they were, they probably wouldn’t be religious.

    No, I’m pretty sure a number of these dim bulbs believe exactly what they are saying. They simply don’t understand that they are a majority because they keep telling themselves how downtrodden they are. They can only see that someone is trying to take something away from them, even though it’s going to cost them in tax dollars, ethics, morality and eventually, the basis of their countries real power, their constitution.


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