Last week, I wrote about a new Holocaust memorial that will soon go up on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse:
The design features the story of an Auschwitz survivor told on two giant tablets… with a Star of David in the negative space between them.
While the monument will be paid for mostly through private donations, the state is kicking in about $300,000 for the preparation of the site.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation says that, while we should certainly honor the victims of the Holocaust, this particular design constitutes a promotion of religion:
… including the Star of David so prominently in the planned Memorial is exclusionary, ignoring the sacrifices made by the many other groups targeted by the Nazis during World War II. A reasonable observer could conclude that the government only cares about the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, not Christian, nonreligious, or other non-Jewish victims.
This afternoon, American Atheists’ David Silverman appeared on FOX News to defend FFRF’s position:
I thought he did a really nice job at the beginning (perhaps moreso than in the second half of the interview), but he made it very clear that this is just a matter of principle. There’s no problem with a Holocaust memorial on public property. In fact, the memorial designs created by the runners-up were equally beautiful and they didn’t include a Jewish star.
And that’s all this is about: The Star of David. Not the memorial itself.
(There may be some pushback with Silverman’s claim that the Holocaust wasn’t *just* about targeting Jews, but the fact remains that Jews weren’t the only victims of the Holocaust.)
Daniel Fincke is an atheist who is appalled that there is opposition to this memorial:
In [opposing this memorial, FFRF and Silverman] show an outright offensive [inability] to understand the multivalence of symbols and their different meanings in different contexts and in the process conflate the affirmation of the Jewish people’s dignity, endurance, and victory over one of the world’s most monstrous and horrific attempts at utter genocide with a government endorsement of the Jewish religion or religion in general is unbelievably historically and culturally ignorant.…
… This knee jerk response from atheists at any religious symbol whatsoever and reduction of all religious expression to its worst forms is one of the places that atheists fail as critical thinkers the most humiliatingly.
I want to repudiate this blind reactionary atheism in this instance with no qualification.
Fincke no doubt represents many atheists with his stance.
I know a lot of you see this as a petty issue not to be fought over, but I strongly believe that we can’t let even the little “harmless” things like this slide. If we let it go, religious groups will eventually try to do something similar somewhere else — and they’ll argue that we had no problem with a Jewish memorial in Ohio, so why would we have a problem with this other religious memorial?
Indeed, most atheists seem to have no problem fighting back against a veterans’ memorial with lots of Christian crosses on it. And FFRF’s argument is that the Holocaust memorial is doing something along those same lines.
To be clear: No atheist group is opposing the memorial nor do they want to dismiss or belittle any of the Jewish victims. As Silverman said in the interview, he would have had no problem if the city selected with of the other two designs.
Personally, I like that FFRF isn’t ignoring this issue, even if people will interpret (and spin) it the wrong way.
By the way, you may have wondered why Silverman was doing the interview given that he has no formal connection to FFRF. He told me it was because he lives close to New York City and FOX wanted someone who could be in the studio.