NY State Senator Says Times Square Atheist Billboard is Religious Persecution Like the Kind That Led to the Holocaust

New York State Senator Andrew Lanza is outraged by American Atheists’ billboard in Times Square:

He’s so outraged that he’s linking the sign to the Holocaust:

Senator Lanza said, “Just as millions of Americans are preparing to celebrate Christmas, this intolerant and hateful group deliberately ridicules the solemn beliefs of millions of New Yorkers.”

Not only do the people behind this group not believe in God but they obviously don’t believe in decency, civility and kindness to fellow human kind either. This is part of a continued “War on Christmas” and also upon the belief and value system of millions of Christian, Jewish and Muslim people who have faith in God. Religious persecution of the kind that similarly lead to the Holocaust began with small evil baby steps of ridicule and hatred of the religious beliefs of others.

Godwin’s law is still in effect.

There’s no hatred with the atheist billboard. There’s not even ridicule. AA President Dave Silverman has said repeatedly that the purpose of the billboard was to let closeted atheists know that they don’t need to go to church or pretend to worship Jesus in order to enjoy the holidays. That’s it. Furthermore, saying a religious belief is untrue is not at all the same as saying you “hate” religious people.

It must be Republican logic. After all, this is a guy who voted against marriage equality but has the audacity to believe AA’s billboard is an example of “religious persecution.”

State Senator Andrew Lanza

Of course, Lanza wasn’t done yet. He still had to bash atheists as a whole:

While it is not surprising to me that people who do not believe in God are hateful and malicious, I would have hoped that the people who own this billboard, those who live in Manhattan and around Times Square and the community’s political leaders would have decried this hate speech as something not to be tolerated or allowed.”

… the fuck?

In what world does spending time with family and giving to charity and drinking hot chocolate — all of which American Atheists’ billboard offers up as ways to spend the holidays — amount to “hate speech”?

And how does Lanza not see the hypocrisy in his own words? If I said the following, you all with rightfully condemn the hell out of me:

While it is not surprising to me that Jews are hateful and malicious

You’d call me a bigot. You’d tell me I’m unfairly painting all religious people with a broad (and untrue) brush. You wouldn’t stand for that sort of blatant prejudice. But this guy’s in elected office?!

Of course, Lanza wasn’t done yet. He still had to take one last swipe at American Atheists:

Senator Lanza is also calling for the revocation of the American Atheists’ 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status because he doesn’t believe that tax dollars should be used to spew religious hatred.

If non-profit status was revoked for something as innocuous as AA’s billboard, every church in the country would start paying taxes immediately — and that’s not even getting into groups that fight to block certain groups of people from getting equal rights like Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage.

Lanza also called for a boycott of Times Square in protest. In the weeks leading up to New Years Eve. Because that’s gonna work. He wants you to sign a petition, too.

This is so over-the-top ridiculous that it’s apparent Lanza doesn’t understand the Constitution or how the marketplace of ideas works.

Yesterday, American Atheists responded to him with a letter that I don’t even know how they wrote without strings of expletives because I’m seething with rage just typing this:

Does our billboard infringe on anyone’s rights to do as they see fit? Can our billboard affect your life if you don’t want it to do so? One could ask the same question about Christian billboards threatening non-Christians with hell.

The answer, of course, is no. Billboards don’t infringe on people’s rights.

You are the one attempting to infringe on others’ rights. You are petitioning, on your official government-hosted website, to suppress our Constitutional right to freedom of speech. This is truly an act that should frighten Americans. Your abuse of your office to attempt to silence a minority group is not only un-American, it is the antithesis of the ideals upon which our nation was founded.

You should be ashamed of yourself, and all New Yorkers should be ashamed to be represented by you. In your press release, you defame the character of the tens of millions of atheists, agnostics, and nontheists by saying, “[I]t is not surprising to me that people who do not believe in God are hateful and malicious.” That is bigotry, plain and simple. You smear the nearly 3 million non-religious New Yorkers with your hate. You are unworthy of the office you hold.

Our billboard, which points out that Christmas is better without the religious baggage, is not hate speech nor persecution, Senator. Critique is not persecution. Demanding our equality is not an attack on your rights. It is an assertion of ours.

Make no mistake: We do not fear you. The more you attempt to silence us, the louder you will hear us rise in opposition to your posturing. You are so damaged by your religion that you can’t obey your own oath to uphold the Constitution when it conflicts with your dogma and pride.

Enjoy our current and future awareness-raising projects. It could not be more clear that you need them.

Okay, maybe they were seething a bit, too. But you can understand why. You expect this sort of ratings-induced vitriol from Rush Limbaugh or a talking head on Fox News.

There’s simply no justification, though, when it comes from an elected official who is speaking as a government representative.

Let Lanza know this is completely inappropriate. If you live in his Staten Island district, tell him you won’t be voting for him next year — and then spread the word so that no one else in your community does so either. His email address is lanza@senate.state.ny.us.

Sen. Andrew Lanza’s district

Don’t let him get away with this.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.


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