Robert M. Price on Westboro Atheists

For the April issue of Zarathustra Speaks, Robert M. Price has published a well-written essay describing what he calls “Westboro Atheists.” I agree with pretty much everything he writes, especially this:

This is why I cringe every time I hear about the latest attempts of the Freedom from Religion Foundation to scour every expression of faith from the public square.

He then goes on to write this:

Just today I dropped by Town Hall to pay my utility bill, under the wire, I might add, and I was disappointed to find the place closed in observance of Good Friday. But my instinct was not to get on the phone with the ACLU and to start legal proceedings. I believe that the FFRF and like-minded zealots are operating from a basic confusion. They see as a church-state issue what I believe is better understood as a culture-state issue. For local government to allow a manger scene on public property or to allow crosses to adorn veterans’ graves is in no way tantamount to a legal establishment of religion, though making churches tax-exempt probably is. Posting “Thou shalt have no other gods besides me” in public schools is.

That’s an interesting way of looking at things, which I hadn’t considered before. Of course, it’s possible that something can be both a church-state issue and a culture-state issue. In fact, it seems to me that that is the case. But there are church-state issues and then there are church-state issues. Do I think having God on U.S. coins is a church-state issues? Yes. Do I think it would be better if the coins dropped the reference to God? Yes. Do I think it’s a battle worth fighting? Not really; litigating God on coins strikes me as the church-state equivalent of a police officer giving out a speeding ticket to a driver for going 0.5 mph–half of one mph–over the posted speed limit. To put it bluntly, that strikes me as a bit anal retentive.

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