Alabama Atheist Who Opposed City’s “In God We Trust” Display Received Death Threat from Correctional Officer

A couple of weeks ago, several non-Christians spoke to the Mobile County Commission (in Alabama) because the elected officials had voted to put a plaque reading “In God We Trust” in the city’s Administration Building. Despite the opposition, the Commission decided to move forward with the display.

Amanda Scott, a member of the Mobile Atheist Community, was one of the people speaking out against it:

In a boneheaded move, local news station WKRG posed a question to its Facebook fans — not about the legitimacy of the display, but about their opinions of Amanda:

What are your thoughts on a local woman who wants to see an Athiest motto placed next to the words “In God We Trust” at Government Plaza?

It was a horrible question, and the response was exactly what you think it’d be: A lot of awful comments directed at her… and no shortage of threats.

In fact, one of the threats (since deleted) outright called for Amanda’s murder:

It’s hard to make out that icon. So let me enlarge it for you:

It’s a symbol for the Alabama Department of Corrections, where Bennie O. Ashby, who called for Amanda to be shot, works as a correctional officer.

Let me repeat that: A government worker, whose job involves providing security for people in prison, called for an atheist to be killed because she opposed an “In God We Trust” display. (The link was first pointed out by Peregrin Wood at Irregular Times.)

Ashby may have made the threat on his private time, but the connection to his job is very public. With the badge as his icon, it’s entirely reasonable to think he was commenting as a government worker. I’m appalled the Department of Corrections would allow this type of individual on their staff. Would they seriously defend him by saying, “He didn’t do it while on duty, so we don’t care”?

I sent them an email last Wednesday explaining the whole story and requesting a response. It’s been nearly a week and I haven’t heard back. I also sent a message to Ashby himself last night asking if he had anything to say about his threat… he hasn’t written back either. That’s why I’m posting this now.

This is what some atheists have to deal with in the U.S. It wasn’t Amanda’s only threat, but it came from someone in a position of authority, whose salary is paid for by taxpayers. It’s just unbelievable.

And to be clear, I am *not* suggesting anyone make nasty comments of any sort against Mr. Ashby. Don’t do it. Don’t contact him at all. It’ll only make the situation worse. Just use this as evidence that anti-atheist bigotry is still very apparent in parts of our country.

On a brighter note, Amanda is handling all of this with professionalism and bravery. She told me via email that Ashby’s comment “sends the message that atheists in Alabama, like myself, cannot expect to receive fair treatment by state correctional officers.”

Last week, the Secular Student Alliance also gave her an Award for Outstanding Activism, adding:

Amanda, please know that you have the full support of the Secular Student Alliance. We know that an award from us doesn’t make up for the [harassment], but we hope it can serve as a reminder that you are doing fantastic work, and we are proud to have you as a part of the secular student movement.

We’re all proud.

If there are any developments, I’ll post an update.

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.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X