'Equal Time' Religious Displays
Sarah Dearne

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org> To: "sarah"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Thursday, December 21, 2000 12:13 PM

I can sympathize with his effort to bring attention to the plight of the atheist, but I disagree with the move to get "equal time" in the public square after the religious majority breaks the law with their religious displays.

See my article, "Governments Should Not Erect Religious Displays," on the back page of last month's issue.

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I had a chance to read it, and here's what I think:


Town officials warned Yorktown clergy of Morton's request weeks ago. With the holidays approaching, pastors are resigned to the solstice greetings, which celebrate an ancient seasonal event with pagan roots.

"He has as much right to do this as we do," said Monsignor Dermot Brennan, pastor of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Yorktown. "I don't want to sound like I'm in favor of it, but the law says he has the right."

The Rev. Angela Skinner, associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown, said religious freedom has to apply, in this case, to the nonreligious.

"Just as we have a right to express our beliefs, he has a right to his beliefs -- or nonbeliefs," she said. "I don't think it in any way diminishes our expression of faith."


This is the classic "tolerance" that Thomas Paine speaks about when he equates tolerance with intolerance: Intolerance, he explains, won't allow to you have your liberties, where tolerance will allow you to have your liberties. I think Paine couldn't decide which was worse.

Neither can I.

Either way, they are deciding for us whether we may and many not have what our nation's Founders deemed "inalienable rights" endowed to us by "Nature's god," which, to a Deist (and the authors were just that) means that these rights are endowed to us on account of our very nature as humans. As I have comically described my essential humanity (as a qualification for anything), "My qualifications are based entirely upon the fact that I have both a skeleton and a pulse."


We have the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should tolerate even them whenever we can do so without running a great risk; but the risk may become so great that we cannot allow ourselves the luxury.
     -- Karl Popper, paraphrase by Richard Robinson, An Atheist's Values (page 215)


The article continues:


Rabbi Stanley Urbas of the Yorktown Jewish Center said he suspects Morton is trying to ridicule the whole idea of promoting religious symbols on public grounds.


Damn right! (Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee!)


"He probably wants to make the whole thing look silly," Urbas said. "It's kind of odd that they're making this into a religious race, but if they want the publicity and it's okay with the town, it's okay with me."


Here's a man who's both observant and unafraid to mince words. Sounds like a man who recently prevailed in a protracted struggle to include a menorah in said display -- or worse: someone who watched helplessly as the Liberal Christians (and other "feel-good" egalitarians) squeezed a menorah into the display without first discussing the prospect with the leaders of the Jewish community.


Rabbi Leonard Shofer of Temple Beth Am in Yorktown said the atheist application shows what can happen when church and state mix.

"Once you crack the dike, you have to say 'yes' to everyone," he said. "It's a mess. But how can you fight it?"


My point exactly.

"See what you got yourselves into?" he seems to be saying. "Now we have to let the damn atheists take part in the public celebration!"


O'Hair became a nationally recognized and often-reviled spokeswoman for atheism before her widely publicized disappearance in 1995. Last June, a federal jury in Austin, Texas, convicted a part-time handyman on charges related to the kidnapping of O'Hair and two relatives.


What!? Widely publicized my ass!! Nobody in the press -- mainstream or otherwise -- said a thing for at least a year! Nobody! Nobody except American Atheists themselves and a handful of other atheist groups in our private newsletters. It took longer than a year for the cops to even open an investigation! Even then, it was an IRS thing not a Missing Persons Bureau thing. The authorities investigated O'Hair's disappearance because she had not filed a tax return! (Well, duh! She was dead!)

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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