NY State Senator Andrew Lanza is dying to be persecuted.

NY State Senator Andrew Lanza is dying to be persecuted. December 18, 2013

You’ve probably heard by now that a state senator out of New York, Andrew Lanza, has griped about the American Atheists Times Square billboard on his official page.  Let’s just hop right in:

The controversial activist group unveiled its latest anti-Christmas ad this week in Times Square along with a press release declaring that “Christmas is better without Christ.”

The billboard is not anti-Christmas.  It’s very much pro-Christmas and lots of the things that surround it like generosity, hot chocolate, time with loved ones, etc.  The billboard just rightly says you don’t need Jesus for the holiday to be valuable (since all that other good stuff has value).  To call the AA billboard anti-Christmas is like calling me anti-ice cream just because I think ice cream would rock even harder if it could taste just as good without all the unhealthy components.

Seriously, the digital billboard is 15 seconds long.  How is it possible to so vastly miss such a concise message?  Unless, of course, you’re a person who is so eager to feel persecuted you’ll twist things into knots to get there.

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.”

If you view “hot chocolate rules” as intolerant and hateful, the problem is with you.

If you view “you’re wrong” as intolerant and hateful, the problem is with you.

“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…”

Says the man who will soon equate the people saying “hot chocolate rules and you don’t need Jesus to enjoy Christmas” to Nazis.  Could he suggest a more decent way than the happy billboard to say “Look, you don’t need to believe in Jesus or go to church for Christmas to be meaningful”?  Oh, he thinks saying that at all is indecent.  Well it’s not.  Christians are in the habit of continually telling atheists we’re wrong and that we need Jesus.  When they do it, they’re noble warriors for the lord.  When we do it, we’re indecent, uncivil, and lacking in kindness.  What a palpable, embarrassing, and ultimately ridiculous double standard.

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….

A billboard that says Christmas rules (but that you don’t need Jesus) is part of a war on Christmas?  Fuck, what is it when I say “Fuck yes!  Bacon for breakfast!”?  Is that part of my war on bacon?

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.

Yes, it was the people who wore belt buckles stating “God is with us” supposedly telling people they don’t need Jesus that resulted in the holocaust…not residual, religiously-driven hatred of the Jews, racism, lust for political power, and more.  Without a very religious nation’s supposed disdain for Jesus, everything would’ve been peachy in Nazi Germany.  Everybody knows that once you start telling people a guy never rose from the dead and that you can be generous without giving somebody the time to preach to you that a guy rose from the dead, that the next logical step is genocide.

It is an indictment on humanity that people voted for this idiot.

While it is not surprising to me that people who do not believe in God are hateful and malicious…

Could Lanza’s bigotry be more obvious?  Put any word in place of “people who do not believe in god” in that sentence and see how it sounds.

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

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

Way to represent all your constituents equally, Mr. Lanza.  Saying “you don’t need to go to church” is not hateful or malicious.  Saying “hot apple cider is awesome during the holidays” is not hateful or malicious.  This man must’ve never known any hardship if these things strike him as persecution.

Plus, this guy knows that America is littered with billboards saying believe in Jesus or you will burn for all eternity, right?  But those aren’t hateful or malicious, apparently.  But say “Hey, you can drink eggnog without sitting through a boring church service”…that just crosses the line.

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.

If you find assertions that there are things that make the holidays grand that aren’t Jesus to be more offensive than an elected official using his position to say a group’s freedom of speech should be suppressed, you have no clue what America is about.

Seriously, you’re saying a group’s very innocuous speech should not be tolerated in the same breath you’re calling others intolerant.  Just like vision tests are administered before someone is given a driver’s license, elected leaders should be made to pass an irony test before they’re allowed to govern.

“I am calling upon all decent people to send a message loud and clear that there is no room in our society for religious hatred or persecution…”

Agreed!  When the religious persecute LGBT people by passing laws that prevent them from having equal rights (laws that Andrew Lanza has voted for) we should send a message that there is no room in civilized society for such hate!  When religious people attempt to dictate how others must celebrate a holiday, we should tell them to mind their own fucking business!  And when religious people think they have the power or the right to silence their opposition, we should tell them that this is America, where freedom of speech takes precedence over your mere offense!

What?  Oh, he meant there’s no room for hatred or persecution of the religious.  Well, I’ll agree with him that there’s no room for persecution of the religious.  Thankfully that’s not happening.  Being told you’re wrong is not persecution.  As for no hatred of the religious, I don’t generally hate religious people (until the infringe on the well-being of others on account of their religion).  But I do hate religion.  There’s plenty of room for that.

And fuck Lanza’s implication that anybody who thinks you don’t need Jesus during the holidays is not “decent”.  It takes a lot of hubris (or, more likely, a monumental lack of awareness and perspective) to accuse people of catalyzing a second holocaust, to call all atheists hateful and malicious, etc., and then toss around accusations of indecency.  This is akin to Kanye West calling people arrogant.

To send this message, people should boycott and stay away from Times Square and all those affiliated with  hatred of this kind.

At Christmas and New Years?  Right.  And after that miracle you can go punch out god.

If you agree, sign onto my petition calling for the immediate withdrawal of this advertisement which will be forwarded to the NYC Mayors Office, the NYC Council, the Attorney General’s office and the Times Square merchant community.

Even if you managed to get a billion signatures, those signatures would not override anti-discrimination laws – laws put in place specifically to check people who want to suppress free speech or otherwise discriminate against people they don’t like due to race, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.  For being so much more moral than we wicked atheists, it’s strange to see how frequently Christians are impeded by anti-discrimination laws by comparison.  Fancy that.

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.

But the churches who put up the “believe or burn” billboards?  I wonder if Lanza thinks they should pay taxes.  Actually, I don’t wonder that at all – of course he doesn’t.  Because a church telling you that you need to submit or burn forever is an expression of love.  Telling people that not going to church is ok and doesn’t affect the joy of gift-giving though, that’s hatred of the highest order.  You know, if I didn’t know better, I’d say Christianity fucks with people’s moral perceptions rather than improving them.

American Atheists fired back at Lanza beautifully:

The First Amendment gives all Americans, irrespective of their beliefs, exactly the same rights. This means we all have the right to express ourselves as long as we don’t infringe on the rights of others. Nobody has more or fewer rights than anyone else. Christianity is not superior to atheism or any other system; Christianity is equal to atheism under the Constitution.

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.

New Yorkers deserve to be governed fairly by someone who understands the value of diversity and the benefits of freedom of speech, not by a theocrat who attacks our most cherished values on a religious whim.

The fact that you are using your religious hatred to try to damage the businesses in New York’s Times Square by calling for a boycott there during the holiday season astounds me. I wonder if you’d call for a boycott of your own home district if there was a billboard you didn’t like erected in Staten Island.

You call our billboard “hate speech.” You say that “there is no room in our society for religious hatred or persecution.” Yet, this critique rings hollow when it comes from a man who voted to enshrine religious persecution in the laws of New York by voting against equality for LGBT New Yorkers.

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.

This is why I can’t work for an atheist organization.  I would’ve just written “Fuck you.”  But this is much, much better.

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