FFRF Responds After Getting Blamed for Mingus Park Cross Explosion

Late last week, there was a small explosion near the Mingus Park Vietnam War Memorial cross in Coos Bay, Oregon. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the cross was slightly damaged.

Mingus Park Vietnam War Memorial cross (via FOX News)

As I wrote over the weekend, atheists were getting blamed for the crime. Specifically, a Christian leader was blaming the Freedom From Religion Foundation for “fomenting hatred” because they had challenged the constitutionality of the cross on public property.

Today, FFRF released this statement about the cross explosion:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation was dismayed and shocked to learn of an explosion in Coos Bay, Ore., late last week at a public park where FFRF has formally objected to a Christian cross atop a veterans’ memorial. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the war memorial appears to be undamaged. Police have not released details on what the device was.

FFRF condemns this violent and reckless act. We are in fact not aware of any act of violence committed by a nonbeliever in the name of keeping religion out of government. We have had FFRF billboards and banners vandalized and stolen on occasion, and been the recipient of many threats of violence over the years, so we know how it feels. Dynamiting the Buddhas at Bamiyan or terrorizing abortion clinics are the tyrannical tactics of religious fanatics, not the Freedom From Religion Foundation. We have never, and will never, advocate or employ violence against those with whom we disagree.

FFRF, a longstanding, non profit organization with almost 20,000 members, polices Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state” through peaceful, educational means. FFRF’s goal is to ensure that the government complies with constitutional principles that are a bedrock of our secular republic. We expressly do not accomplish that mission by inciting anyone to lawlessness — quite the opposite. We encourage members and citizens to stand up for the law — the First Amendment, which protects all of us, by engaging in educational activities.

Nor would we suggest or assume that those with whom we disagree are guilty of violence simply because we disagree ideologically. There are many right-wing Christian legal groups against whom we constantly battle, but all those conflicts occur peacefully, in court of law or public debates.

Unfortunately, Hiram Sasser, an attorney at the Liberty Institute, one of the newer right-wing Christian legal groups, appears not to share our scruples. According to Fox News, “Sasser called on the FFRF to stop ‘fanning the flames of hostility toward veterans memorials.’ ”Sasser knows that FFRF has no objection to veterans memorials. More than 24% of our membership are veterans. We object to government endorsements of Christianity, and government war memorials that honor only Christian vets and exclude others.

Sasser knows of our position, because he is working with Coos Bay and he’s read the multiple letters we sent the city. FFRF’s has reiterated time and again: “We have no objection to the veterans’ memorials. Our objection is to the message of endorsement of Christianity over other religions and non-religions.” Despite this clear statement, Sasser attempts to slur FFRF as anti-veteran.

It’s therefore very unfortunate that, according to Fox News Sasser also said, “These people will stop at nothing to intimidate communities to tear down their veterans memorials. Now the crazies are trying to blow one up.” FFRF again calls on the city of Coos Bay to honor all veterans and to end the divisiveness of the Mingus Park cross by removing it from public property.

Strong words, but I feel like they’re warranted given the severity of the charge.

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.

  • ZenDruid

    I think that as a ‘memorial’, that hunk of concrete is butt-ugly, and the memory of our veterans deserves much better. It looks like a project from Shop class.

    • Mario Strada

      Really. Looks like someone unearthed a fence post and stuck a plaque on it.

    • quickshot

      If you think this is ugly, then you better not look at what the atheist monument at the courthouse in Florida….

      • baal

        Finished granite >> lump of concrete.

      • Rip Van Winkle

        Much as I don’t want to, I have to agree. The atheist monument is butt ugly. It’s like they just picked a volunteer to design it and then no one with actual design experience ever looked it over before they sent the plans to the granite shop.

        • Franklin Bacon

          At least it’s not offensive and makes a point. It doesn’t take beauty or taste to do that. It’s a response to whom insisted the space is now a public forum.

      • DavidMHart

        Yeah, it’s not exactly an aesthetic triumph. Still, I don’t think it needs to be – the point of it was not ‘there should be atheists monuments on courthouse grounds’; the point of it was ‘there should be no sectarian monuments on courthouse grounds, but until the Christians play ball on that one, we’re just going to have to put our own monuments up as well so that it’s clear to everyone that an exclusively Christian courthouse ground will not stay that way’.

        This being the case, you could argue that the uglier the better, since if everyone knows that if they put up a Christian monument, they will also get an ugly monument in an inevitable two-for-one deal, it might make them think twice :-)

  • Reace’s Pieces

    It will be very interesting to see how Fox News responds to this, if at all for that matter. – thatACDCguy

  • Albert

    It seems pretty clear the FFRF has claimed to have nothing to do with it. Let the evidence speak for itself. The fact that they don’t agree with religion or the like, does not implicate them in the least.
    It’s sad that we have to make this a political issue beyond the evidence we have. For all we know, the person who did this has no affiliation with anyone and was acting on their own.

    • http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-los-angeles/hugh-kramer Hugh Kramer

      It’s important for the FFRF and secularists in general to publicly deny, repudiate and condemn this kind of vandalism. The reason this is necessary is that while the evidence may speak for itself, someone has to be listening first. If the only voices they hear on the subject come from folks like Hiram Sasser, that may not happen.

      • HollowGolem

        And the inaccurate assumption from many in the Christian majority is that, of course the lawless, unethical atheists blew it up. Why wouldn’t they? I love that these people still feel comfortable loudly voicing their unfounded bigotry.

      • LutherW

        Not to mention the absence, as far as know, of a comment by Joel Stein.

      • Buckley

        You will only see more of this kind of accusation the more the Christians feel more and more like a marginalized group. This will only get worse before it gets better.

    • 7Footpiper

      While I don’t want to be accused of stirring the pot, I think it’s inevitable that when the evidence does speak for itself we’ll be “shocked” to discover the perpetrator of this act is in fact some manner of godbot looking to fan the flames of hostility.

      • UWIR

        Whoever did this was clearly an atheist. Any such evidence as the perpetrator going to church or publicly claiming to be a Christian would be irrelevant. No True Christian would do this.

        • Bitter Lizard

          Based on a quick survey of your posts, it really is impossible to tell if you’re kidding.

        • Franklin Bacon

          What better way to get the government to pay for crosses, than to blame it on an atheist? Crosses are easily replaceable, but it would serve the theist cause much more than any atheist cause, to destroy a cross.

        • 7Footpiper

          Right, becuase no true Christian would commit any of the range of senseless acts that are brought to light each month.

          • rev_anon

            Who ever did this is clearly a god-zealot! Most likely working for Sasser, or Melton or Kirby or Payne. These turds want trouble. Another local group that would go out of their way to cause trouble would be Point Man Ministries.

            The Atheists are “nones”, they don’t believe in religion and could care less about a damn cross. Unless of course that cross is located on tax-paid-for-land. A location where it is inappropriate for it. Atheists use legal means to get compliance from the law. They do not thwart the law, they abide by the law. Atheists are non-violent and would not use violent methods to get their way. They know violence only hurts others which is wrong.

            Most Atheists are also Humanists who again believe in helping others, not harming others. A vast number of Atheists are Veterans, Police, Firemen, Paramedics, School-teachers, Professors and Scientists.

            Atheists feel sorrow, not hate, for religious folk, much like one would feel sorry for a dog begging for table-scraps. Religious folk were either raised that way and never grew-up or they were brain-damaged by drugs, alcohol or war. Either case, they can’t help themselves and need someone to care for them.

            There is an organization dedicated to helping religious folk. It’s called “Recover From Religion.org”, try a Google search and help in your religiously afflicted friends recovery.

    • Jim

      Yeah, right. Like you guys don’t lie with the title above ‘Friendly Atheist’. That slogan is about as credible as ‘Islam, the religion of peace’. Trying to blow up a Veterans Memorial is just sick. You guys could have hurt or killed some kids.

      • Sideshow Billybob

        Okay smartass, who did it? You obviously took the Sasser stance and put blame over evidence for your own “Christian” agenda (which seems to be just as peaceful.)

        The slogan is Hemant’s and he’s a darn sight friendlier than some of the anti-theists I’ve come upon on the ‘net. It’s easy to be angry at fucking liars for Jeebus like you, because you talk the talk but sure as hell don’t walk the walk. Now go get fucking Pharyngulated if you want the unfriendlies.

      • Bitter Lizard

        And people think that Christians have a problem with the truth. Clearly, that’s false–for them to have a problem with it, it would have to be of concern to them in the first place.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Why do you lie and slander people, Jim? Is it because you don’t love Jesus enough?

      • Michael W Busch

        You appear to have missed the part where nobody here or at the FFRF was involved in any way – and there is currently no publicly-available evidence to say who was responsible.

      • Baby_Raptor

        1) Got any proof Atheists did it, or are you just assuming because that fits your preferred narrative better?

        2) What does this blog’s title have to do with the incident? Are you implying Hemant is the one who attacked the monument, or are you just calling ALL Atheists assholes thanks to your presumption that one Atheist did something wrong?

        3) Like religious people care about kids. Don’t make me laugh.

        4) See 3, but substitute “veterans” for “kids.” The Right in this country is doing everything it possibly can to subvert what veterans fought for. And I’m willing to lay money that you support it.

      • mikedave

        why are christians so angry all the time?

        • Jim

          I’m not a Christian. I just don’t believe that violence is the way to solve a problem.

          • Lauryn

            We agree. Violence is no way to solve the problem. Which is why the post is about FFRF saying, “FFRF condemns this violent and reckless act.”

      • starmom

        Chances are it was kids that set off the explosion. The skate park is 1/2 a block away, and kids hang out in the covered picnic area near the memorial. School is a week away.

    • Baby_Raptor

      *We* didn’t make this an issue. They did. The FFRF has every right to respond to assholic accusations without being shit-talked for it.

  • quickshot

    Regardless of who caused the explosion, I think violence from atheists is inevitable. If atheism is going to continue its upward climb in the US, then its going to attract the likes of some bad people. As Hemant has said, being an atheist doesn’t automatically make you smart (or something along those lines).

    • starmom

      When members of the predominant religion in this country quit trying to force their beliefs into our government, atheists won’t have anything to protest.

      • quickshot

        Protesting and violence are two WAY different things.

        • Michael W Busch

          That much is true. But no not assume that violence will be the reaction, rather than protest.

    • baal

      I don’t think violence from atheists is anywhere near inevitable. Many of us are strongly humanistic and using violence as a tool for social normative behaviour runs counter to humanism.

      • quickshot

        Very true, but it’s not a requirement. The only thing that is required is a lack of belief in a deity. There are plenty of violent/stupid people who have no trouble meeting that requirement.

        • Michael W Busch

          Do not equate violence with stupidity.

      • Darrell Ross

        I think violence is likely.

        I know several atheists who are also birthers and conspiracy theorists – I pick away at their silliness when time permits.

        I think a lot of it will come down to atheists who get a lot of press and what they encourage. If atheists in general continue to focus on lawsuits and protests and legal means of fighting back, then any violence will be the exception not the rule.

        On the opposite side, I definitely think many theist extremists will give their lives in violence when they begin to notice their drop below 50%.

    • Highlander

      You may be right. You may not. We won’t know until it happens. I think it should be important to think through the what ifs of that situation however. We want to do better than the religions of the world that have hung together and formed a united front when their own behaved badly (I’m looking at you RCC, but not just you). The athiest community doesn’t want to say, “Oh, he’s one of us, he can’t have done that horrific thing.” Neither do they want to convict someone with no evidence. The athiest community should condemn acts of violence and support the legal process in finding culprits. The athiest community should also defend athiests in general from being painted with a common brush as those who do violence. Athiests should show the world not only our differences but how much we have in common with humanity

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      No reason to downvote this, sheesh. There will be stupid, violent people in any group of sufficient size.

      • Jim

        I agree. You appear to have a few crazies just like PETA does.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          But thankfully not hundreds of thousands of them or more, like the Abrahamic religions have. And double thankfully, we’re in the habit of not providing social cover for them, unlike organized religion.

        • TheG

          Yup. Just like Westboror Baptists, physician murderers, child molesting priests…

        • Michael W Busch

          Do not misuse the word “crazy”. You mean “violent”. They are not the same thing.

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

        That doesn’t mean we have to support or condone their stupidity and violence, though. My downvote was made because I disagree with taking violent action.

    • Goape

      Stupid doesn’t equate to violent; and it’s such a baseless accusation to say that violence from atheists is inevitable. Why do you think that?

  • Mick

    And the Christians – not just the right wingers but also the main-streamers who enable the fanatics – will be thinking, ‘Strasser’s probably right you know.’

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    What?! Fox News slandering an organization that isn’t white, christian and republican by knowing spreading falsehoods and innuendos?! I will hear none of this! I am out-raged at such claims. Fox News has always provided an accurate viewpoint about why everyone who isn’t a conservative white male Christian is ruining this country. I mean their slogan is “Fair and Balanced”, and no corporation would lie in their slogan.

  • cobalt100

    HA! This is just the start of the war against religious shrines and the like on public property. Wait until an F100 Ford truck with dual positraction on all four wheels crashes into a manger scene sending the baby Jesus and his teen mother, Mary, late of the Bible, flying in all directions. It’s going to happen. Soon, I hope.

  • Texan

    I’m going to stay out of the “inevitable” discussion [painful Clayton Williams flashbacks] but I would like to say the FFRF letter was spot-on and it’s a shame so few will ever see it.

  • WallofSleep

    I don’t care what kind of person did this (atheist or believer or whatever), nor what their motive was. I only hope that they catch the asshole(s) that did this and throw the book at him/her/them. “Casual” vandalism is one thing, but building and detonating a bomb is some seriously dangerous shit that should be prosecuted.

  • Jim Jones

    From Hiram Sasser to Horst Wessel. Never expect honesty from theists – it’s not their stock in trade.

  • joe

    FFRF is making a mistake by responding to the Fox news goon at face value. They’re IRL trolls, and everything they’re saying is based on the “straw man” debate tactic. if you take their bait, you’ll always lose.

  • Dave

    They don’t understand the cross means NOTHING to us. Zero, Zilch, Nada, why would you waste a perfectly good explosion on nothing? Personally I think it is christian extremists blowing up a cross to discredit Atheists.

  • atheistbuddhist

    Could it be that a christian bombed the monument in an attempt to throw suspicion onto atheists? If this were true, then could christianity be designated as a terrorist group?

  • StevesWeb

    Since Christians are preselected as a group willing to attribute belief in the absence of evidence, this may reduce our surprise when they blame atheists based on zero evidence found.