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.


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