Group with Atheist-y Name Claims Responsibility for Bombing of Christian Group’s Veterans Memorial

You may recall that, back in August, there was a small explosion near the Mingus Park Vietnam War Memorial cross in Coos Bay, Oregon. No one was hurt, but the cross was slightly damaged.

Mingus Park Vietnam War Memorial cross (via FOX News)

At the time, the fingers were pointing straight at atheist groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation:

“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.

“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.”

FFRF challenged the religious memorial on legal grounds, but we know they would never resort to tactics like this. Still, days later, just to set the record straight, FFRF condemned the actions:

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.

In the weeks to follow there was little development in the case, but yesterday, there was a strange breakthrough: All City Council members and The World (a newspaper serving the Coos Bay community) received a letter from the purported criminal(s).

The writer appears to be a member of an atheist group.

(via The World)

(via The World)

The group, calling itself Veterans United for Non-religious Memorials, demands that the city remove the Mingus Park Veterans Memorial and threatens more mayhem if the demand is ignored.

“Apparently you are not receiving our message about the Mingus Park Veterans Memorial,” the letter reads. “We gave you warnings with the minor explosive devices at the memorial and at the Bay Area House of Prayer.”

“From now forward, we hold each of you personally responsible for causing deeper grief and insult to the families and friends of non-Christian Veterans.”

“If the City does not now comply with prompt removal of the cross, we will take increased action against you, your staff, religious leaders and faith based structures.

Just in case it’s not obvious, “Veterans United for Non-religious Memorials” isn’t an actual group. It’s a fictional name. The only place you’ll find the name on Google is in news reports about this very letter.

We don’t know who’s behind this. And, to be sure, we don’t even know if they’re atheists. I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it’s entirely possible that a religious nut or teenager looking for kicks wrote the letter in the guise of atheists.

But if it is, in fact, a lone atheist or a group of them, what they’re doing is absolutely despicable. It’s terrorism, pure and simple — using violence or the threat of it to achieve some political aim. That is not how any of us should be settling our disputes.

You can bet that some news sites will quickly jump to conclusions that atheists are responsible for this — without any evidence beyond the made-up name for the group — but let’s be clear: Nobody knows any of the details yet. All they have to work off of is their own prejudice.

On a similar note, on Saturday night, an American flag and a POW-MIA flag were stolen from the David Dewett Memorial Wayside. This is another religious memorial in the area and a place that was once considered as a possible new home for the Mingus Park Vietnam War Memorial cross.

No word yet on whether there’s any connection between this theft and the purported vandals’ letter.

(Thanks to Patty and Anne for the links)

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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