After Explosion Near War Memorial Cross, Fingers Are Already Being Pointed at Atheists

***Update***: FFRF has responded after getting blamed for causing the explosion.

Around midnight late Thursday night, a small explosion went off near the Mingus Park Vietnam War Memorial cross in Coos Bay, Oregon:

Mingus Park Vietnam War Memorial cross (via FOX News)

There were no injuries. The memorial itself is still standing, but with some damage. There are no suspects yet. There’s no established motive. We pretty much know nothing about this incident other than “it happened.”

So, of course, atheists are already being blamed for it because they once challenged the constitutionality of it:

“We unfortunately are now to the point where explosive devices are being placed next to crosses,” said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation at the Liberty Institute.

“We have no objection to the veterans’ memorials,” FFRF attorney Rebecca Markert wrote to the city. “Our objection is to the message of endorsement of Christianity over other religions and non-religions.”

The FFRF is a Wisconsin-based group of freethinkers, atheists and agnostics that has a history of targeting small towns and communities on issues regarding public displays of the Christian faith.

“These people will stop at nothing to intimidate communities to tear down their veterans memorials,” Sasser told Fox News. “Now the crazies are trying to blow one up.”

Sasser called on the FFRF to stop “fanning the flames of hostility toward veterans memorials.”

“There are consequences for fomenting hatred for what were once obscure veterans memorials,” he said. “The FFRF should immediately condemn this dangerous criminal act.”

Where do you even begin with such crazy statements?

Hiram Sasser (via C-SPAN)

FFRF rightly challenged the constitutionality of putting a religious memorial on public land. It didn’t matter that the memorial was donated. Not all veterans of the Vietnam War were Christian, and there’s no reason a local government should have approved of a cross to symbolize the veterans’ sacrifice. That’s what FFRF was against. That’s the *only* thing FFRF was against.

The inherent religious significance of the Latin cross is undeniable and is not disguisable. No secular purpose, no matter how sincere, will detract from the overall message that the Latin cross stands for Christianity and the overall display promotes Christianity. The display of this patently religious symbol in a city park confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause.

It is unlawful for Coos Bay to display a patently religious symbol such as a Christian cross on public property. We ask you to remove the cross from the park immediately or direct the display be moved to a more appropriate private location. We would also appreciate a prompt response from you, in writing, informing us of the steps the City will take to resolve this matter.

There was no hostility. There was no hatred. There was no call for violence.

I have no doubt FFRF will condemn this act, but let’s be very clear: They had nothing to do with this. I can say this because I know many of the people who work there and I know how they think about these issues. They want to persuade elected officials to not put up these religious memorials in the first place. They want to convince them it’s an unconstitutional idea. If none of that works, they’ll consider litigation as a last resort. And, of course, they have no problem with these memorials being put on church property.

They never urge supporters to resort to vigilantism or violence. They wouldn’t even joke about that.

For Sasser to even suggest that FFRF has a role in this says far more about him than it does FFRF.

I hope whoever did this is caught and punished. I don’t know what someone’s motivation would be for doing this, but I certainly have no tolerance for it. Neither do the atheist groups that challenge these types of memorials.

We’re right on principle alone. There’s just never any justification for actions like this.

Incidentally, the same war memorial was vandalized earlier this year by someone who clearly didn’t approve of the cross:

Mingus Park Vietnam War Memorial cross… vandalized (Thomas Moriarty – The World)

FFRF had nothing to do with that, either.

No suspect was ever caught nor was any motivation found, but I’ll gladly join the crowd in condemning this act of vandalism. It doesn’t help our cause to have individuals pull shit like this because they think they’re above the law. It just fuels further speculation from people like Sasser who are quick to point fingers without any due diligence.

The memorial was also vandalized again this past June by someone who was clearly in support of the cross:

Mingus Park Vietnam War Memorial cross… vandalized again (KCBY News)

I can’t find any instance of Sasser condemning that action, by the way.

(Thanks to @thatACDCguy 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.


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