She Can’t Say Nice Things About the Atheist Monument Because She Fears ‘Retaliation from Christians’

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times has a nice story about American Atheists’ monument now up in front of the Bradford County Courthouse:

AA President Dave Silverman sits on the bench (via @AmericanAtheist)

Most of it rehashes why it’s there in the first place, but I loved two particular bits.

The first is about the Christian group that refused to take its Ten Commandments monument off the property, ultimately leading to AA putting up a monument of its own:

The county at first asked the Christian group to remove the Ten Commandments, but its members threatened their own lawsuit. The law was on their side, Mr. [Charles C.] Haynes [of the Religious Freedom Education Project] said. Courts have ruled that while government entities may not sponsor displays of religion, private groups can sponsor religious displays on public property.

The county, the Christian group and American Atheists then entered into mediation. The county decided to declare the space a “free speech zone,” and the atheists proposed their own monument, said Mr. Loukinen, who participated in the mediation. (Representatives of the men’s fellowship could not be reached for comment, but posted on their Facebook page that “God worked this out.”)

So there you go: God settles court disputes! I guess Christian groups were perfectly fine when the Supreme Court ruled on DOMA and Prop 8 because it was God’s will, right?

And then, there’s this somber moment:

This week, the atheist monument was already drawing visitors. Teenagers in a summer camp from New Hope Baptist Church in Mayo, Fla., about 75 miles away, gathered around it and bowed their heads in prayer. For hours, no one ventured to sit on the atheist bench until David Roberson and a friend arrived from Tampa. Mr. Roberson declared it “fantastic” and took photographs of his friend posing on the bench.

“It’s very inviting,” said his friend, Maria, a nurse who did not want to give her last name because she said she was afraid of retaliation from Christians. “It’s hands on, to include people rather than exclude.”

To paraphrase: I don’t want to say nice things about this bench, because I’m afraid Christians will say nasty things about me.

That’s the reputation Christian churches have made for themselves in America: If you’re not with us, we hate you. I’m not saying that’s an accurate statement, but when church leaders so often say awful things about so many groups of people (like gay people, women, liberals, etc), it’s not hard to believe they’ll also retaliate against anyone who speaks favorably of atheists.

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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