What small town atheists must go through just to secure their plain and obvious legal rights.

What small town atheists must go through just to secure their plain and obvious legal rights. November 24, 2015

I wrote recently about the two year-long legal fight with Baxter County in which an elected official lied, harassed, and attempted to intimidate local atheists before losing in a summary judgment (the legal equivalent of a blowout) in court.  It’s a testament into just how much work must be done to stand up to a corrupt government official who’s trying to assert special privilege for Christianity.

In the judgment the order was made that if one religious group is allowed a sectarian religious display on the county courthouse lawn then all others must be allowed too.  Any competent lawyer could’ve told County Judge Mickey Pendergrass this from the beginning: you can’t give one religious group access while denying others.  That’s discrimination.  Sadly, Mickey did not consult a competent attorney until it was too late (after he ignored warning after warning from the American Humanist Association).

But that’s not so bad, right?  I mean, who could possibly think having to share government space infringes on their rights somehow?  Well, local Christians as it turns out.  From the hometown paper:

A crowd of approximately 150 people gathered on the Mountain Home Plaza on Sunday afternoon to protest what they said was the removal of the Nativity scene from the lawn of the Baxter County Courthouse following a recent decision by a federal judge.

Hey, they’re using their First Amendment right to assemble to…protest the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment.  There’s some irony for you.

And if they’re pissed off at the nativity’s removal, well, the person at whom they need to be pointing their ire is Mickey Pendergrass, the County Judge who invited this lawsuit in the first place.  He has a choice in front of him: put up the nativity and share the space with other religions (he denied the local Jewish community’s request to put up a Menorah as well as my father’s request to put up a “Happy Winter Solstice” banner) or put up nothing.

And oh, their signs (which can be seen in the photo if you click through to the article).

“Holy family, yes.  Secularism, no.”

Thanks for confirming that this is about religion (the county tried to claim the creche was a secular tourist attraction in their defense, lawl).  And is somebody trying to stop you from having a holy family?  Did I miss something?

As for secularism, your religion ain’t in charge.  If you’re trying to imply that Christians should get access to government property that other citizens don’t get, that’s not equality, and that’s not how America works (and why the county rightly lost the lawsuit – again, in the legal equivalent of a blowout).

“Cuba banned Christmas scenes too.”

So?  Take it up with Cuba.

The nativity isn’t banned.  The county is just required to share the space with other religions.  The person holding this sign literally took the time to craft it and drive down to protest something he literally knows nothing about.  If you prefer to share rather than have no displays, take it up with Mickey Pendergrass (and the Satanic Temple which probably already has a statue of Baphomet picked out).

“Holy family no room at the inn Mountain Home, AR.”

There’s plenty of room at the metaphorical inn.  But that’s not what they want (otherwise, why protest when all you have to do is share?).  What they want is exclusive access to government property – they want to be the only people at the inn while keeping everybody else out.  They’re the ones saying there’s no room at the inn (which makes the local atheists more like Jesus than they…ouch).

Seriously, these people are passionate enough to protest, but not passionate enough to know what happened or to know what the judgment in the case said.  Ah, if only passion first required knowledge.  Sadly, their religion seems to reward outrage before it rewards comprehension.

A Hanover, Pennsylvania-based organization called The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, or TFP, also had a large presence at the protest.

I think that’s great – people are perfectly welcome to care about perceived injustice beyond their own borders.  However, there were tons of locals commenting in the local paper insisting that people like me shouldn’t care since we live so far away (even though I lived there for 20 years) because apparently injustice past the fifty mile marker isn’t something that should concern people.  I wonder if they learned that lesson from Jesus.

Those people had nothing to say about this group from Pennsylvania though.  Hypocrites.

The organization’s director of student activities, John Ritchie, explained how his group came to be involved in the event.

“We have 40 boys here for a Call to Chivalry Camp. We found out the Nativity scene was removed from public property and that’s an insult to our faith,” said Ritchie. “The boys are out here showing their love for the faith by standing up for the rights to display our faith in the public.”

If it gets removed they should be mad at the County Judge.  But they won’t be because they don’t have the first clue what’s going on.  Instead they’ll be mad at the plaintiff who wanted the same rights they’re complaining about not getting (even though, as they say, they’ve had their display up for forty years).  And you can display your faith in public.  But if you want to put up a sectarian religious display on government land then everybody else has to be allowed the same privilege.  If you want to share, tell Pendergrass that (and be ready to welcome the Satanic Temple with open arms).

When told the judge’s ruling actually didn’t prevent the Nativity scene from being displayed, rather the county judge must allow all displays or none, Ritchie was not satisfied.

“Christmas is about the Christ child, it’s about the holy family. It’s not about expressing other things that are foreign to Christmas,” said Ritchie. “The central idea of Christmas is Christ and once you say oh well, let’s water it down to be something meaningless. We don’t buy into that sophism that really doesn’t hold water.”

What a needlessly verbose way of saying “We get First Amendment rights, but non-Christians don’t.”  And yet this guy wants to lecture people about what America is about.

Look, you can make Christmas about Christ all you want (as if people not letting this jackass dictate how they celebrate the holiday in their homes is somehow an affront to him).  Having to share government space with other people who value their particular holidays just as much as he values his doesn’t stop anybody from having all the Christ in Christmas they want.

Seriously, these people’s message is that if they’re not allowed special rights denied to others that they’re somehow being persecuted.  It’s pretty stupid and selfish to say that if others aren’t persecuted to favor you that you’re somehow the one being persecuted.

“This is not a new battle. This is the battle between Christ and the powers of darkness…”

Having to share government space = “the powers of darkness.”  Yes, let’s take our moral cues from people who failed to learn the value of sharing that most of us had under control before leaving preschool.

“…today described as atheism, secularism, neo-paganism, politically correctism,” Drake told the crowd.

Guy thinks Christians should be able to break the law and get access to government land denied to others, but somehow it’s atheists who are the “powers of darkness.”  It’s a message that will stick with people who don’t have a critical thought in their skulls, but not with anybody else.  Sadly, Mountain Home seems to be full of such people (and church seems to be where they congregate).  Maybe the county should’ve tried that argument in court?  It’s not like they could’ve lost much harder.

“Today, we are here to protest the removal of an artistic depiction of the Nativity of our lord Jesus Christ. What is really at stake though is whether our community, our society recognizes Christ as the foundation on which America is built.”

Wrong.  The nation was built by people who had just fought a war with England to emancipate themselves from a state church because, wait for it, they wanted to worship freely (and a state church makes that impossible – I’ve written more on this here).  And, again, if you’re pissed at the nativity’s removal, all you have to do is be willing to share government space with other American citizens and you can have it.  If you’re unwilling to share then you have nobody to blame but yourselves and Mickey Pendergrass.

This guy is standing proof that this crowd’s ignorance extends beyond the lawsuit they’re so mad about and into basic American history.

So now some local Christians have an idea to really stick it to all those non-Christian, powers of darkness people.  It’s a brilliant plan, you ready?  They’re going to do what is totally legal and which nobody attempted to stop them from doing (or plans to try to stop them from doing), and what should’ve been done in the first place:

Private business owner Chris Nosari saw it as a problem for the many faithful in the area. So, he came up with a solution.

He challenged all business owners to put up their own nativity scenes, and those who do, can win 1,000-dollars. They can either keep half of it, and donate the rest, or give it all to charity.

“We were out there putting it up, people were honking, giving thumbs up, the overwhelming response has been absolutely positive,” Nosari said.

Holy shit, they’re going to put up nativity scenes on private property to protest the notion that if they put one up on government property they have to share the space.  Damn, that’ll show all those heathens. Hell, they’ll probably even convince themselves that the AHA isn’t suing them because they’re so intimidated by this show of Christian force, not because nobody gives a shit what happens on private property.

Private property is where the thing should’ve been in the first place.  Not only are you doing what should’ve been done before the county lost over $70,000 in legal fees, you’re turning the nativity into a sneer (all while assuring yourselves that it’s those wicked atheists and pagans who are ruining Christmas, right?).

Here’s the truth: pretty much all of these people are equally ignorant and sore losers, and most of ’em are pretty damn ignorant.

And ugh, I made the mistake of reading the comments on that article:

I am so glad all the businesses are displaying the Nativity. Sad that after 40 years it’s become a problem all of a sudden. Once again Political Correctness run amuck. This is a country whose moral and civil laws were founded and based on Biblical principles. All the more reason to keep refugees that don’t want to assimilate out of our country. We obviously already have to many that are not believers of the 1 true God.

Yeah, our civil laws were founded on Biblical principles.  That’s why eight of the ten commandments would be unconstitutional on their face, right?  Try passing a law saying people can’t worship other gods (the first commandment) or have graven images (second commandment), and so forth.  See how far you get with that.

And it’s not a problem “all of a sudden,” it’s that people are scared of you supposedly moral Christians and with good reason, so nobody has spoken up before Dessa was brave enough to do it.  We’ve seen what people like Jessica Ahlquist (who was also in the legal right) have had to face.  My father has been collecting comments from various articles on this pointed at plaintiff Dessa Blackthorn.  Let me share a few:

We should pay them with a a bullet

We are compiling names and addresses We will run them out of town

[There was a threat to burn Dessa’s business.]

[Lot’s of cries to boycott Dessa’s business.]

Either do your own thing or move back to where you came from

If people don’t like this as we do every year then GO BACK WHERE THEY CAME FROM

As well there should have been threats…yall don’t like our religious traditions, then move somewhere else…you were obviously not raised here so go back to where you came from…all your looking for is a paycheck…go to hell

It should be noted that Dessa received compensation of fifty cents for her victory.  mmmMMMmmm…that paycheck.

Let’s continue:

“Because if you give in, next thing you know there won’t be Christmas anymore…it won’t be a holiday anymore…it won’t be celebrated anymore…it’s people like you that want to lay down without a fight is the reason we are losing this war…we are in a holy war…believe it or not…and Gods not fighting your battles for you…he wants you to stand up for him and defend him like Jesus once stood up for and defended you”

Mistie Gourley-Strain I hope she burns in hell for trying to change the sanctity of Christmas which is about
CHRIST ..AND I hope her business is ruined

The newspaper phones were lit up all day. All of them were older folks who wanted to boycott you, but they sounded disappointed when they heard the name of your business. Apparently they weren’t into ink and couldn’t boycott you.

No you are wrong….God is the almighty…if your religion doesn’t celebrate God…you shouldn’t be allowed to Celebrate. This country was founded on Christian beliefs and that’s the way it should stay.

You may win your fight in court, but you won’t win it in the community…just sayin…and it’s not about rights…it’s simply about trying to make people mad…that’s it…put your banners up…I guarantee they won’t stay

I’m done arguing with you people…put up a banner…who cares…just make plenty of copies

I suggest Blackthorn move her and her business. We don’t need people like her around here. People like her are the reason this country is in the shape it is in.

duh, there were three other corners where they could have put something up to show their feelings, Forgot, they probably don’t have any!

It should be noted here that this is exactly what the Jewish community and Dessa wanted to do.  Mickey Pendergrass told them they couldn’t.  And yet, this woman is still somehow upset with Dessa rather than Mickey.  These people are piss ignorant and their religion helps them stay this way by allowing them to believe god is giving them the cosmic thumbs up for every piss ignorant thing they say.

And we’re not done, not even close.  Here are some more choice examples:

If your so brave to wanna fight this than don’t be a freaking coward and hide behind someone else with your I wanna be anonymous bs! Put your name out there so we can boycott you and your buissness just the same as Dessa!

Shoot, here’s one from this very article:

HAHA Dessa hope you like looking at all those nativity scenes all over town,,You poured gas on the fire and it burnt ya. HAHA you Godless freak!!!!!!! Kudo’s to all the businesses in MH God bless you all,,All her neighbors should all put them right on the edge of there property line and point them at her house I WOULD, right now she would’nt like having me for a neighbor one little bit!

I could go on, but you get the gist.  The reason nobody has complained isn’t because nobody cares or because they weren’t in the legal right, which is what people try to imply when they say nobody has complained before.  No, the reason nobody has complained is because it’s as certain as the sunrise that when they do there will be a Christian mob foaming at the mouth to make their lives miserable just because they weren’t allowed to break the law.  This is what happens when children acquire political power and a mob mentality.

Hell, before the lawsuit was filed the County Judge himself colluded with a fanatic to put together a multi-page smear sheet to be given to the local churches and otherwise distributed. Mickey also directed people where to obtain copies of this document, the conclusion of which was to “run them out of town on a rail”.  These same Christians love this law-breaking bully, but want to complain about the lady who clearly had her rights violated.  That alone should tell you what religion can do to somebody’s moral sense.

I keep hearing from most of these same people that Christianity is required for morality, but then they try so hard with their actions to prove that Christianity turns people into petulant, self-important children who view not being able to kick other people off government property as their legal right without which they must be persecuted.  At the same time, this is often what’s required for an atheist to secure their rights in communities with lots of Christians in them, even when they’re so obviously in the right they win their case in a blowout.

This is because Christianity doesn’t win by having the best arguments – it wins through fear and intimidation.  Don’t believe me?  Drive down the interstate for any amount of time.  Count the billboards that say “Believe or burn in hell” or some variation of that.  Also count the number that say “Come to our church, we have evidence” or some variation.  See which number is higher.  That will tell you how Christianity tries to win.  It’s all “Jesus is love” until they’ve secured power, then this is what you see.

And for any Christians reading this who want to leave a comment like “Not all Christians are this way!”  You’re right.  However, those Christians seem to be conspicuously silent in the face of these small town maniacs.  Perhaps you should go leave a comment chastising your own before rushing to assure me that not all Christians aren’t that way.  Show me.  Don’t tell me.

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