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Equal rights for Atheists?

 
 
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 01:18 pm
What do you think? Should Atheist messages get equal exposure in the Legislative Building? Or is it better to just remove ALL religious symbolism from the public building?
http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/12/05/atheists.christmas/index.html
Quote:

(CNN) -- An atheist sign criticizing Christianity that was erected alongside a Nativity scene was taken from the Legislative Building in Olympia, Washington, on Friday and later found in a ditch.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation had a placard up in the Legislative Building in Olympia, Washington.

A country radio station employee in Seattle told CNN affiliate KIRO-TV the sign was turned in to the station by someone who found it in a ditch.

"I thought it would be safe," Freedom From Religion Foundation co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor told CNN earlier Friday. "It's always a shock when your sign is censored or stolen or mutilated. It's not something you get used to."

The sign, which celebrates the winter solstice, has had some residents and Christian organizations calling atheists Scrooges because they said it was attacking the celebration of Jesus Christ's birth.

"Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds," the sign from the Freedom From Religion Foundation says in part.

The sign, which was at the Legislative Building at 6:30 a.m. PT, was gone by 7:30 a.m., Gaylor said.

The incident will not stifle the group's message, Gaylor said. Before reports of the placard's recovery, she said a temporary sign with the same message would be placed in the building's Rotunda. Gaylor said a note would be attached saying, "Thou shalt not steal." "I guess they don't follow their own commandments," Gaylor said. "There's nothing out there with the atheist point of view, and now there is such a firestorm that we have the audacity to exist. And then [whoever took the sign] stifles our speech."

Gaylor said that police are checking security cameras pointed at the building's entrances and exits to see if they can see anyone stealing the sign.

"It's probably about 50 pounds, " Gaylor said. "My brother-in-law was huffing and puffing carrying it up the stairs. It's definitely not something you can stick under your arm or conceal."

The Washington State Patrol, which is handling the incident, could not be reached for comment.

Dan Barker, a former evangelical preacher and co-founder of the group, said it was important for atheists to see their viewpoints validated alongside everyone else's.

Barker said the display is especially important given that 25 percent of Washington state residents are unaffiliated with religion or do not believe in God. (A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found 23 percent of Washingtonians said they were unaffiliated with a religion and 7 percent said they didn't believe in God.)

"It's not that we are trying to coerce anyone; in a way our sign is a signal of protest," Barker said. "If there can be a Nativity scene saying that we are all going to hell if we don't bow down to Jesus, we should be at the table to share our views."

He said if anything, it's the Nativity scene that is the intrusion.

"Most people think December is for Christians and view our signs as an intrusion, when actually it's the other way around," he said. "People have been celebrating the winter solstice long before Christmas. We see Christianity as the intruder, trying to steal the holiday from all of us humans."

The scene in Washington state is not unfamiliar. Barker has had signs in Madison, Wisconsin, for 13 years. The placard is often turned around so the message can't be seen, and one year, someone threw acid on it, forcing the group to encase it in Plexiglas.

In Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association began a bus ad campaign this month questioning belief in God.

"Why believe in a God?" the advertisement asks. "Just be good for goodness sake."

That ad has caused the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to field hundreds of complaints, the group said, but it has heard just as much positive feedback, said Fred Edwords, the association's spokesman.

Edwords said the ad campaign, which features a shrugging Santa Claus, was not meant to attack Christmas but rather to reach out to an untapped audience.

Edwords maintains the campaign began in December mostly because the group had extra money left over for the year. The connection to Christmas is a coincidence, he said.

"There are a lot of people out there who don't know there are organizations like ours to serve their needs," Edwords said. "The thing is, to reach a minority group, in order to be heard, everyone in the room has to hear you, even when they don't want to."

The ad campaign, Edwords said, is to make people think. He said he doesn't expect to "convert" anyone.

But the Christian Coalition of America is urging members to oppose the advertisements.

"Although a number of humanists and atheists continue to attempt to rid God and Christmas from the public square, the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts," Roberta Combs, the group's president said in a press release.

"We will ask our millions of supporters to call the city of Washington, D.C., and Congress to stop this un-Godly campaign."

As far as the criticism goes, Edwords said there are far more controversial placards in Washington.

"That's D.C. -- this is a political center," he said. "If I can see a placard with dead fetuses on it, I think someone can look at our question and just think about it."

The anger over the display in Olympia began after it was assembled Monday. The sentiment grew after some national media personalities called upon viewers to flood the phone lines of the governor's office.

The governor's office told The Seattle Times it received more than 200 calls an hour afterward.

"I happen to be a Christian, and I don't agree with the display that is up there," Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire told The Olympian newspaper. "But that doesn't mean that as governor, I have the right to deny their ability to express their free speech."

For some, the issue isn't even that the atheists are putting their thoughts on display, but rather the way in which they are doing it.

"They are shooting themselves in the foot," said iReport contributor Rich Phillips, who describes himself as an atheist. "Everyone's out there for the holidays, trying to represent their religion, their beliefs, and it's a time to be positive."

The atheist message was never intended to attack anyone, Barker said.

"When people ask us, 'Why are you hateful? Why are you putting up something critical of people's holidays? -- we respond that we kind of feel that the Christian message is the hate message," he said. "On that Nativity scene, there is this threat of internal violence if we don't submit to that master. Hate speech goes both ways."
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Type: Discussion • Score: 16 • Views: 5,878 • Replies: 83
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edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 01:20 pm
I don't want institutionalized atheism, any more than religion.
0 Replies
 
Woiyo9
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 01:36 pm
@rosborne979,
You would first need to establish how their "rights" are violated?
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 01:42 pm
@Woiyo9,
Further, if allowed displays are in keeping with symbolism related to a particular national tradition or holiday, the Atheists would need to show how their display was appropriate. If the Atheists wanted to establish a 'national Atheism Day' or something like that, their display would be appropriate for that particular observance. A nativity scene or other Christian symbol (or any other religious symbol) would not.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 01:48 pm
If any one group is allowed to display a doctrinal message in a public place which is supported by tax dollars, then any group has a right to display a doctrinal message at that location. That includes people whose message is that religion is superstitious bullshit.

Fox, you always make up the most hilarious horseshit.
Woiyo9
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 02:11 pm
@Setanta,
Yes, they do. However, that" message" must not disparage the other "message".

Both parties have the same "right". Yours does not eliminate mine.
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 02:34 pm
@Woiyo9,
In my opinion, neither party has a 'right' to display anything on public property. However it could be an appropriate prerogative of government, provided a majority of the governed do not object, to permit appropriate symbols or acknowledgments of special holidays, commemorations, traditions within that community. And I think it is the prerogative of government to assess whether such symbols/acknowledgment is appropriate. A nativity scene would certainly be appropriate for acknowledgement of Christmas both as a popular tradition and as a holiday common to everybody. The Atheist statement is not appropriate or even related to acknowledgement of Christmas and therefore is not appropriate in that setting.

The Atheist statement would be appropriate to recognize an Atheism Day or something like that and should be permitted if such displays are permitted for anybody. And again, a nativity scene or other religious symbol set up beside it would not be appropriate.

To me this is a simple concept. What am I missing?
Woiyo9
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 02:45 pm
@Foxfyre,
I do not think you are missing anything.

I think old Set has another bug up his ass.
NickFun
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 03:29 pm
I am a Buddhist. I do find it somewhat offensive that anyone's religious views should have to be on display in any type of government building. Perhaps we should stick with the Constitution.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 03:46 pm
@Woiyo9,
Why must the other message not disparage any other message? Are you alleging a legal, a constitutional basis for that claim?

If religionists are going to paste up fairy tales in public buildings, atheists have as much right to paste up signs which say "these are fairy tales."

As usual, you have no case.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 03:51 pm
@Woiyo9,
Fox is missing quite a bit, which is typical. I have no bug up my ass, it's the religionists who have their panties in a twist over this one, and who have resorted to vandalism as a result.

Fox's goofy scenario to the effect that you can't post something if you don't celebrate the holiday leads to some interesting questions. Does that mean that Jews can't put up Chanukah messages because the Christians have posted their fairy tales? Or does it mean the Christians can't put up their Christmas message because the Jews have put up a Chanukah display? Does this mean the Christians have to take their **** down at midnight on Boxing Day because Kwanzaa begins, and their message cannot be allowed to conflict?

Fox is an idiot. You're a would-be enabler of her idiocy.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 03:54 pm
It defeats what atheism is all about; we are not an "established" group.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 03:56 pm
@cicerone imposter,
I find organized "atheism" to be rather a pathetic notion, and in my never humble opinion, it verges itself on a form of religion. Nevertheless, those who participate in such groups have as much right to put up their message in a public building as does the god crowd.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 03:57 pm
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:
What do you think? Should Atheist messages get equal exposure in the Legislative Building?

I don't see how this question relates to the story you're quoting. By CNN's account, the government in Olympia, Washington didn't give the atheists any trouble. The trouble came from private thiefs who stole the sign and threw it in a ditch. What we have here is a problem of petty theft and vandalism. We aren't looking at a problem of constitutional law.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 04:08 pm
First, to Foxy's point: The Day the Atheists were celebrating is the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice has been celebrated since long before Christmas was invented.

Second... this quote made me laugh...

Quote:
she said a temporary sign with the same message would be placed in the building's Rotunda. Gaylor said a note would be attached saying, "Thou shalt not steal."
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 04:12 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas, Good point; the issue for atheists is moot.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 04:18 pm
@Thomas,
However rosborne's question relates to the CNN story, it was impolite of me not to answer it. Here's my answer:

Yes, I think Atheist messages should get equal exposure in public buildings, including the Legislative Building in Washington. The state cannot discriminate on the basis of faith, so it cannot grant Christians exposure in government buildings and deny it to others.

The state can, however, discriminate between signs on a basis other than religion. And if the sign at issue here said something like "Why believe in God?", I think the government can still ban it, on the grounds that Christmas is a celebration, and that sign constitutes party-pooping, atheist or not.

With this distinction, Christians can put up signs celebrating Christmas, and atheists can put up signs celebrating Newton Day. But Christian signs can't say, "why did the Jews kill Jesus?", Jewish signs can't say, "why did Christians kill six million Jews in the Holocaust?", and Atheist signs can't quote Richard Dawkins stating that "the god of the Bible is the most unpleasant character in all fiction."

Sound fair?
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 04:28 pm
@Thomas,
So, you're suggesting, like, a no party-pooping rule?

I was thinking a little along those lines:

"Leave 'em (christians) alone when they're getting us a public holiday."

Of course, if they hadn't come along, we'd still have frank solstice festivals, so...
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 04:50 pm
@dlowan,
I don't buy it.

If the Biblical Nativity story has any historical truth to it... it certainly didn't happen in December (the story involves travel for a Roman census, and these things would not have happened during winter when people didn't travel).

Christians chose December 25th to usurp the Winter Solstice celebrations.

Most of the so-called "Christmas" rituals; candles, songs, gift-giving father figures with beards-- even pregnant virgins... were all taken from celebrations much older than Christianity.

Christians stole nearly everything about what they now call "Christmas"... from the date, to merchants hawking cheap wares. now they have a heck of a nerve claiming exclusive ownership of what is, after all, a very ancient celebration.

People should be allowed to celebrate winter solstice, as they see fit, without being molested.
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 04:54 pm
@dlowan,
Leave them alone out of courtesy and a sense of propriety though, not as a Constitutional issue. It is a slippery slope to dictate what the content of an observance must be. It is entirely proper however to use tasteful traditional Christmas symbolism to commemorate Christmas. This would be a judgment call--perhaps the mayor could appoint an impartial committee to pass off on what is tasteful and appropriate and what is not. Certainly that Atheist statement is not appropriate to commemorate Christmas.

Likewise if the Atheists wanted to commemorate their own celebration, they can post whatever they wish so long as it is tasteful and appropriate. And a religious symbol would not be appropriate for such a commemoration.

As far as offensive, derogatory, or obscene content, the judgment should be equal standards applied to all. Either nobody gets to use such or everybody does.

The idea is to be inclusive of all who wish to observe a commonly shared tradition or event or holiday. It does not matter that everybody in the community be a part of it so long as all in the community are provided opportunity to commemorate their own thing at the proper time or season should they desire to do so.
 

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