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.