Amarillo Globe-News Publishes Awful Editorial on American Atheists’ Monument in Florida

The editorial writers at the Amarillo Globe-News have no understanding of the law, but that didn’t stop them from ranting against American Atheists for putting up a monument in front of the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida.

Quick backstory: A Christian group put up a Ten Commandments monument in front of the courthouse (below) and county officials had to choose whether to remove it or allow monuments from other groups. They chose the latter, probably assuming no one would want to put up a monument, but American Atheists called their bluff. Later this month, they’ll unveil a bench (near the Christian monument) featuring Bible verses that talk about the punishments for violating the Ten Commandments, quotations against religion, and statements in support of separation of church and state:

The AGN editor writers don’t seem to understand why American Atheists would want to do this:

Evidently, many members of the national organization were so offended and/or oppressed by a similar monument of the Ten Commandments near the courthouse that American Atheists was forced to pursue litigation against the county. As a result, American Atheists will drop a 1,500-pound similar monstrosity on county property, which will include quotes from Thomas Jefferson and infamous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair — along with biblical punishments for those who violate the Ten Commandments.

This isn’t about offense or oppression. It’s about the principle of the Constitution. The government cannot give Christians preferential treatment. If a Christian groups wants to put up a monument in front of the courthouse, either they’re not allowed to or everyone is allowed to. American Atheists just wants to be treated like Christians.

Those who make their living creating monuments may be relishing this monumental battle (American Atheists’ version will cost $6,000), but here’s the problem with such constitutional inclusion: Isn’t religion supposed to be part of this constitutional right?

If we’re going to throw religion into this debate — which American Atheists did — how are quotes from Madalyn Murray O’Hair an endorsement of any religion?

Everyone has the right to believe what they want. But under the law, people who believe in a particular religion must be treated the same as those of us who are non-religious. It doesn’t matter that the quotations don’t “endorse atheism.” It’s all about American Atheists getting the same treatment as Christians.

And let’s be honest: American Atheists’ inclusion of biblical punishments for Ten Commandment violations (which include death) is more a mockery of religious beliefs than an exercise of religious freedom.

And the Christian group’s promotion of the Ten Commandments is a mockery of our law, since only two of them (murder and theft) are considered punishable in court. Again, it doesn’t matter what the atheists’ monument says, only that they get the same treatment as the Christian group did. (See a theme here?)

Frankly, a quotation saying “The United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion” is far less offensive that the Commandment telling me I’m going to burn in hell for working on the Sabbath or taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Atheists do not believe in the origins of the Ten Commandments. How can a national group representing atheists believe in biblical punishments for violating these commandments?

Seriously? I can’t believe I have to state the obvious, but the atheists don’t believe any of it. They’re just quoting from the same book as the Christians. If you don’t like what the atheists say, then take it up with the Christian group that started this whole mess.

This case is not about freedom of — or from — religion, but more related to freedom of speech.

Atheists, of all people, should leave religion out of it.

No, we shouldn’t. County officials decided that religion was fair game when they allowed the monument to stay in place.

This is all about whether the local government should be endorsing Christianity. The answer is no. You don’t have to like the atheists’ bench, but you have to accept it, just as you would have to accept a Muslim or Jewish monument.

Nowhere in the editorial is there a mention of what the law says or any acknowledgment that Christians overstepped their bounds here. Even someone who did a quick Google search would have been able to figure all of that out. But that’s more than anyone who wrote this embarrassing editorial did.

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.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Who came up with the idea of naming a newspaper Amarillo Globe-News ? It may not be a good idea to name your newspaper yellow globe-news. What with the connection in the mind to yellow journalism.

    • MarkTemporis

      Funny, but I think the newspaper might be based out of Amarillo, TX.

      • Raising_Rlyeh

        Florida actually

        • TCC

          No, Texas. The monument is in Florida.

      • Dogly

        It’s a joke – amarillo is yellow in Spanish. Get it?

    • Matt

      Right? Not to mention the dummy who named the Los Angeles Times. What is that, a newspaper about angels?!?

  • JDM

    Seems the local Christian churches should organize a protest against the Amarillo Globe-News for opposing people quoting the bible.

    • iamgog

      There’s a group called Repent Amarillo that likes to put on big protests. Give them a holler…

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    My head damn near exploded reading the editorial.

    • Octoberfurst

      Mine too! It was so stupid it was painful to read.

  • aar9n

    Just out of curiosity, has any of these ten commandant monuments been put up on a Saturday?

  • A3Kr0n

    That editorial got so many things wrong the person who wrote it should be fired out of shear embarrassment.

    • Epinephrine

      *sheer

  • WallofSleep

    “Atheists, of all people, should leave religion out of it.”

    Dear Christian Nationalists,

    You first.

    Sincerely,

    Every single fucking non-christian ever

    • starskeptic

      +10

  • Space Cadet

    The first line of the article-

    Do atheists use the phrase “OMG?”

    I apologize for using popular phrases from the dominant language of the culture I grew up in. I swear to god it will never happen again.

    Oops.

    • WallofSleep

      Just because I say “holy shit” all the time that doesn’t mean I believe in a Divine Dookie.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        Went to Google, typed in divine dookie. This is the first picture that came up.

        • http://www.processdiary.com Paul Caggegi
          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

            That is awesome. I be playing now too.

            945 before I hit 3 bibles.

          • WallofSleep

            Well I’ll be damned.

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            I don’t want to click… but I must!

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

              It’s a simple but addictive little game.

        • WallofSleep

          You are a brave soul.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      OMG = Oh My God, Oh My Goodness, or Oh My Gosh.

      I didn’t know Christians had exclusive rights to OMG and it had only one meaning.

      • meekinheritance

        Our Mother Gaia

        • Randay

          Nice. The writer forgot that “Thou shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.” Which is funny not because of insulting the said Lord, but that you should only do it when it has an effect.

          • baal

            OMFG!
            To which I usually reply, “yep, best kind.”

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Oh for Heaven’s fuck’s sake.

      • Hat Stealer

        Jesus Rollerblading Christ.

        • Mairianna

          Lame! Jesus H Christ on a crutch!

  • Dave The Sandman

    Small correction:
    “since only two of them (murder and theft) are considered punishable in court.”
    Its arguably three – “bearing false witness” is perjury and arguably slander and libel. All punishable crimes in a court of law. In the UK there is also “perverting the course of justice” – ie lying to the police to aid a criminal – which Im pretty sure has its own US equivalent
    All involve “bearing false witness”

    • Michael W Busch

      And yet there are many times when people can lie, and a few cases where it is the best thing to do. So call it 2.5, as compared to the 3 or 4 (depending on whose numbering you use) that are explicitly illegal.

      • Randay

        As Dr. House more than once said, “Everyone lies.” I would add, almost every day. We all commit white lies as well. “Bare false witness” is more serious. That is to injure someone else, or let an evil-doer escape.

    • C Peterson

      Almost certainly the original prohibition was against bearing false witness in court, i.e. perjury. Of course, like theft and murder, perjury is prohibited by virtually every culture, and always has been. Those three commandments predate the invention of the Abrahamic god.

      Jewish tradition continues to largely view the commandment against bearing false witness in a legalistic sense. Christian viewpoints vary widely, ranging from perjury (and often, defamation) to simple lying (this being the Catholic interpretation).

      Who knows how the people who see these commandments in front of their courthouse interpret them (especially those that are explicitly illegal under the Constitution). My guess is there aren’t many people in that town who have the education or understanding to even recognize the complexities involved.

      • Dogly

        I person born elsewhere, or who practices a non-Abrahamic religion, or none at all, might rightly feel that our Justice Department, represented by this courthouse, requires that he obey the other 8 commandments forbidding actions that are actually protected by the constitution. Say I’m a Hindu. I believe in many gods. Here in front of the courthouse is a list of laws that I’m told I must obey, under punishment of death. The very first one is that unless I believe only in your particular god, I will be killed. This is a false and terrifying pronouncement to me, on my way into the courthouse. How can you justify this list of laws that are not part of our legal system at all. We have no list of what the laws of the U.S., Florida, or the ordinances of Bradford County actually are. Now that would be helpful!

  • Jamie Farren

    As a resident of Amarillo, I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to Hemant for reporting this travesty of the written word.

    As President of a Freethinker’s group in Amarillo, I plan on responding to the nonsensical argument made by the author of this editorial. We shall see if it sees print.

    Apart from the obvious ignorance of the legal matter involved, the author has also missed the clear logical consequences of their view. In the universe this author inhabits, we would joyfully embrace monuments to Pastafarianism and Satanism but somehow we would feel the need to draw the line at atheism.

    – Jamie Farren
    President
    Freethought Oasis
    http://www.freethoughtoasis.org

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      Can you post your reply here so we can read it?

      • Jamie Farren

        I would be happy to. Hemant has already emailed me on this and so he might have some specific idea in mind if it sees print.

        Thank you for your interest, Kevin. Allies are always appreciated.

        – Jamie

    • iamgog

      Keep up the good fight, Jamie. I miss Amarillo, but I don’t miss the Christians.

      • Jamie Farren

        Thank you, iamgog. I’m lucky enough to have a great group of supporters down here. It has taken us years to build what community we do have and it’s well worth fighting for. :)

  • Bill Santagata

    What the hell is the editorial even supposed to be saying? The atheists are mocking religion but it’s not about freedom of or from religion but about freedom of speech…but the atheists don’t have the right to freedom of speech to mock religion?

    Freedom of speech does not mean the right to construct permanent monuments on government property otherwise you couldn’t walk out of your house without tripping on something. As Justice Scalia said in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum (ruling that permanent monuments on government property are almost always government speech and therefore not protected under the Free Speech Clause)…a neo-Nazi does not have a constitutional right to build a Statue of Fascism next to the Statue of Liberty.

    Bradford County is voluntarily letting the 10 Commandments monument stay there, and in order to do so without violating the Establishment Clause, must allow any religious monuments to be constructed there.

  • Rain

    Looks like they’ve discovered “atheist baiting”. What else could possibly explain it?

    Isn’t religion supposed to be part of this constitutional right?

    What religion is American Atheists supporting with this monument?

    If we’re going to throw religion into this debate — which American Atheists did — how are quotes from Madalyn Murray O’Hair an endorsement of any religion?

    It doesn’t make any sense! I don’t blame them because atheists are the biggest commenters on the internets. It’s almost as if there are more atheists than there are people IRL who are willing to admit they are atheists. Nah, couldn’t be…

  • Malcolm McLean

    Let’s say I want to run a Norwegian Americans event. So I’ll get a few pictures of Norwegian Americans who have done something constructive, like write children’s books or invent new drugs. We’ll provide a few Norwegian dishes which have entered American cuisine. Everything will show Norwegian Americans in a positive light. There shouldn’t be a problem with this.

    But does another group have the right to stage an anti-Norwegian American event? One that highlights crimes committed by Norwegians living in the United States, that stops just short of illegality in inciting attacks on Norwegians, that quotes from the Norwegian constitution, with its King, in a mocking way, that publishes statistics showing that Norwegians are less efficient employees than Americans of other ethnic groups. Is this justifiable in the name of balance?

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      You messed up your analogy just a tad.

      Your hypothetical Norwegians get some pictures together and then tell everyone that they’re the bestest and only and original Americans. They tell everyone else that they’re wrong Americans. They say all the other food is gross and that you deserve to be dead for not being of Norwegian descent because the Vikings totally would have kicked your English/French/German/Scottish/Welsh/Irish butt back in the day (and let’s not even talk about the “wrong-colored” Americans!).

      Does another group have the right to stage a pro-non-Norwegian-American event? One that highlights crimes Norwegians have committed to show that they aren’t the bestest Americans, that other food is also tasty, that portrays themselves as Americans and equal to Norwegians, that publishes statistics showing that Norwegians are lying to themselves and others about factual issues including when they came and how awesome they are? Is that justifiable in the name of balance?

    • Jamie Farren

      As another commenter has already posted, your analogy is broken at best.

      Nevertheless, even if it were accurate the answer would still be, “Yes. They do have a right to stage an “anti-Norwegian American event”. Welcome to the United States.

    • WallofSleep

      Um… wot?

    • Darrell Ross

      What a lame straw man.

      Completely invalid comparison. Here are a couple reasons why:

      1. An event is not a monument.
      2. An event is not a permanent fixture.
      3. You did not specify this event as government sponsored so there’s nothing stopping anyone from doing anti-NA events.
      4. The bench is not anti-Christian; it is pro-equality.

      Perhaps you should try voicing this with the actual terms since your analogy falls flat? Then you might see why.

    • Carmelita Spats

      No, this is the way your yarn unravels…

      Let’s say I want to run a PERMANENT Norwegian American event. So I’ll get a few pictures of Norwegian Americans who have done something constructive, like write children’s books or invent new drugs. We’ll provide a few Norwegian dishes which have entered American
      cuisine. Even music. Everything will show Norwegian Americans in a positive light. There shouldn’t be a problem with this…EXCEPT THAT IT’S GODDAMN ON 365 DAYS and you can’t stop from being force-fed “lutevisk” until your decimated colon explodes and your ears bleed and you wish you could escape and even the poor Norwegian bass player looks like he wants to be shot…Someone decides to diversify the PERMANENT event with some Mexican, Italian, Japanese, dishes, but the rule of gluttony enters into the equation…The rule of gluttony goes like this: When a given religion’s needs become so ridiculously over-satisfied and over-satiated and just plainly obscenely stuffed like Pastor Mark Driscoll on Bud Light, it begins to invent an imaginary “persecution complex” that no one really believes and that actually turns out to be dangerous to the separation of church and state. Praise!

      • The Other Weirdo

        “lutevisk”, whatever that is–but it sounds yummy–destroys only 10% of your colon? I can live with that. Maybe.

        • Derrik Pates

          I’m part Norwegian. We had lutefisk every Christmas growing up. It’s really, really not yummy. Like, not at all. Think the opposite of yummy.

          • The Other Weirdo

            I take it sarchasm doesn’t translate well across the blog comment page. :)

      • Dogly

        The Norwegians can do whatever they please, but not on government property paid for by the taxes of all of us. And atheists would have said nothing if the Ten Commandments were erected across the street, on the church lawn.

    • Willy Occam

      Wow, talk about missing the mark. I concur with the other rebuttals to your weak hypothetical; but the simplest argument is that your scenario has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment clause (which is specifically about religion, not nationality or ethnicity).

    • ShoeUnited

      To answer your question in the scenario you presented, yes. It’s fair to have both Pro and Anti Norwegian festivals. I’m sure the Danes have a few words to say about Norway. Whether or not it’s true isn’t relevant. A right to assembly AND freedom of speech are BOTH covered in the first amendment.

      And in order to have things like occupy wallstreet we have to accept things like westboro baptist church. Otherwise people start making rules arbitrarily and we go to non-war in Iraq for freedom weapons and have the IRS sniff around political parties the current leaders don’t like.

      • Guest

        Actually, Danes and Norwegians love each other. They hate Swedes though.

    • Puzzled

      Yes.

    • Dogly

      Yes.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    I keep reading Amarillo as Armadillo, and can’t stop giggling.

    • Nate Frein
      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        That was oddly entertaining, thank you!

        • Nate Frein

          It is, unfortunately, the first thing that pops into my head whenever armadillos come up.

      • allein

        Poor Dr. Phil(o) :(

  • closetatheist

    I’m honestly at a loss at how Christians see the 10 commandments to be relevant to the United States Court of Law, I mean, read them! “Thou shalt not have any other gods before me”? really? In what way is that an appropriate quote to be plastered on government property? And #2 about graven images makes me laugh cause the strictest interpretation of the verse could be seen to prohibit the very monument that was erected.

    • Willy Occam

      Yeah, the “no graven images” thing has always perplexed me, when you realize how blatantly that one is ignored. Of course, the Catholics conveniently left that commandment out of *their* top ten list, which explains all the fucking statues of Jesus and Mary in their churches.

      • ShoeUnited

        The RCC took this seriously in the 90s and went and started removing statues from Churches all over the planet due to this very thing. My mother was pissed. She was gonna switch to Lutheran until she found out that they don’t believe Mary is a saint.

        • vikingvic

          Lutherans believe everyone is a sinner AND a saint.

    • Beth

      Because: Jesus!

    • Donalbain

      I love this image!

      • closetatheist

        what are they doing? are they literally worshipping it?

        • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

          Yep. It’s idolatry, plain and simple. Forbidden to them, to be sure, but idolatry. Definitely.

          Christians need to read their Bibles and stop this practice: Ex 20:4; Lev 19:4, Deut 4:25-26; 1 Cor 10:14; 1 Jn 5:21 … and many, many more.

  • Linda Turnipseed

    They can’t let pesky little facts get in the way of a good “persecution” rant!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Ooh. I’d love to get a picture of me sitting on that bench! Unfortunately it will be kinda far away.

    When it’s installed, somebody please get pictures of it before it’s vandalized (the first 30 minutes or so) and after. And don’t be too upset by the inevitable (and prompt) defacing. Think of the spray paint, the markers, and the parts chipped by hammers as a patina, a surface that adds to the meaning and importance of a statue or building because it reflects the environment to which it is exposed, like the green corrosion on a bronze monument to a hero near the sea, or the black stains on the Louvre from the smog in Paris. All the vile curses and defilement on the bench done by those good, loving, and pious believers will only make more poignant the statement that the bench is making.

    • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

      For this exact same reason (that defacement of the bench would indicate more things about Christians’ malevolent toxicity than anything about non-believers), I hope every Christian pastor in that area is warning his parishioners not to bother the bench. Every threat, every act of vandalism, every act of barbaric violence is just another piece of evidence that the Christian god can’t possibly be real and that these Christians’ religion is nothing more than a culturally-sanctioned way to suppress dissent and oppress the marginalized.

      One might almost say that Christians and their leaders have more to fear from vandalism than non-believers do. It’s a pity they don’t realize it yet.

  • James Matthew

    How is citing the Bible and insult to the Bible? They just want people to be ignorant of the fact that it declares having any other god besides the Bible god is punishable by death in the Bible.
    Deuteronomy 13
    6“If
    your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife
    you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you
    secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor
    your fathers have known,7of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end),8you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him.9“But
    you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put
    him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

    The Bible is the surest proof that the Bill of Rights was not based on the Bible.

  • MNb

    Spot on. American christians have to learn what their Dutch counterparts have known for decades: they don’t have any monopoly. That Amarillo.com editorial is right btw. “This case is …. more related to freedom of speech.” Exactly! And no believer should tell any atheist or other believer how to use that freedom. The only restrictions can come from the government, which has to be neutral. As an optimist I conclude: they are learning.

  • evidently

    Nice use of the “Evidently, [blatant extrapolation of fact to wild accusation without basis]” technique. Evidently, this editor is more interested in scoring points with the dominant paradigm than with thoughtful discussion of the day’s events.

  • SeekerLancer

    So you’re going to complain about atheists being offended while you complain about the atheist monument which you are offended by.

    Then you’re going to trumpet your constitutional rights as a Christian while complaining the atheists shouldn’t be doing the same thing.

    I do not apologize that your feeling of privilege is being threatened. It greatly entertains me though.

    For the millionth time, just don’t put religious monuments on publicly owned property. You can put them literally anywhere else. Why is this so hard to understand?

  • litesp33d

    As always these things are not about what a religions book of dogma ‘actually’ says but what people have been brainwashed into thinking it says. Any reasonable person who read what a holy book actually says they should do, being raised in a tolerant society, would reject it out of hand as a book of barbarism, dishing out cruel and inhuman punishments for the barest of infringements. But these institutions are run by egotistical charlatans who spend their entire lives establishing control of and manipulating the credulous. And once you have a taste of that power you do not relinquish it easily especially if your alternate employment would be that of a very lowly and menial type. Few have any qualifications that are merit worthy outside the clergy.

    As always those who choose to believe in absurdities are easily encouraged to commit atrocities. Having seen what religion does to those who oppose or reject it the ones with the least faith often have the loudest voice for they fear if they are suspected of not being faithful enough the beast will devour them next.

  • Vision_From_Afar

    Hate to point it out, but “false witness” is technically punishable in court. That still only makes 3, though.

    • Derrik Pates

      We’ll call it two and a half – because it only applies under limited circumstances.

  • iamgog

    As a former resident of Amarillo, I must say this: The Globe-News is a daily rag that gets published because Morris News Service still somehow, miraculously (the only evidence that there might be a god) makes a profit on print distribution.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Not much of a surprise here. Amarillo is home to a Christian-Taliban type group.

  • Robyman4

    Let the Christians have their say. We will also have ours, and there isn’t a damn thing they can do about it. Every day more and more people wise up to the truth about how damaging and preposterous religion is. That’s not going to change in the future; there will be more and more non-believers right here in the U.S. and all around the world!

  • katiehippie

    I like the description ’1500 pound similar monstrosity’. Are they saying the 10 commandments one is a monstrosity as well?


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