Texas theatre won’t run atheist ad

May 5, 2012

I don’t go to movies much anymore. When I do, I can’t say I pay much attention to the advertising ahead of the film. Others do, though, and might be lured into buying whatever is offered because humankind is often more sheeple than people. If rationalism, atheism and reason are what’s being offered, heaven forbid! The people who run Angelika Film Center in Plano decided to cancel an ad prepared by Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason the day before it was set to air. Zachary Moore, who runs DFWCR, ran into the same issue with a different theatre in Arlington around Easter.

“The Movie Tavern has claimed that they have a policy against religious advertising, but such a policy has not been provided to us,” said Moore.

“Following the cancellation of our contract with the Movie Tavern, we sought out a similar contract with the Angelika and was successful.”

Angelika Film Center of Plano, Texas did not return a request for comments by press time.

Angelika Theater representatives reportedly told the atheist group that it won’t run the ad due to the theater’s position that no religious ads be allowed at the business. Moore, however, disputes Angelika’s reasoning.

“Angelika has not made any such policy available to us, nor was this mentioned during our contract negotiation,” said Moore.

“The Angelika has even refused to provide us with a written notice of our contract cancellation. As with the Movie Tavern, we have received reports of regular religious advertising at the Angelika.”

I think it is suspicious that these theatres claim to have a “no religion” policy yet refuse to produce written proof of it, especially if they’re ignoring its existence in every other situation. What kind of pro-religion ads are they running, I wonder?

Some groups, including the American Humanist Association, are apparently considering a lawsuit over this but I don’t know if they’d have success with it. Theatres are allowed to reject advertising. A church in Orange county ran into a similar issue last year when they wanted to advertise their Easter program at the local film house but were turned down. In that case, the Jesus message as presented was deemed too religious for a mainstream movie theatre. The theatre offered to run a watered down version if they produced one but they didn’t bother.

Student willing to ruin school career over Jesus T-shirt

May 5, 2012

From CBC:

A Christian student suspended from a high school in Nova Scotia for sporting a T-shirt with the slogan “Life is wasted without Jesus” vows to wear it when he returns to class next week.

William Swinimer, who’s in Grade 12, was suspended from Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin in Lunenburg County for five days. He’s due to return to class on Monday.

The devout Christian says the T-shirt is an expression of his beliefs, and he won’t stop wearing it.

“I believe there are things that are bigger than me. And I think that I need to stand up for the rights of people in this country, and religious rights and freedom of speech,” he told CBC.

Swinimer wore the same shirt to class for weeks on end, the article goes on, but teachers and students were starting to feel like it was less a message about personal beliefs and more like a passive attempt to convert the entire student body. As Nancy Pynch-Worthylake, board superintendent, put it –

“When one is able or others are able to interpret it as, ‘If you don’t share my belief then your life is wasted,’ that can be interpreted by some as being inappropriate,” she said.

Swinimer was too wrapped up in his own feelings of persecution to see it that way, though, and was willing to risk losing the rest of his school year over his shirt. I was curious about what other coverage this story had and found CBC’s update. The school board has reconsidered.

Swinimer called the board’s decision “awesome” and said he will be wearing his T-shirt to school on Monday.

“Some people say you’re not supposed to have religion in school. Well, every other religion is in that school and they constantly put Christianity down,” he said.

I don’t know what he means by that. Is he saying his school looks the other way while kids from other religious backgrounds blatantly insult the Christian kids, or did the school make the decision to be less Christian-centric and open things up to more secular events like winter festivals instead of Christmas parties?

Pinch-Worthylake said the board will use this incident as a learning moment for everyone, adding that it is time to move on.

“We’re going to be working with students around how they can express their religious views and other views appropriately, and how we work together when those views may be interpreted or misinterupted by others,” she said.

“So, the focus is off the T-shirt. Whatever T-shirts come to school on Monday with personal beliefs will not be an issue for us.”

And that might help with whatever perceived slurs Swinimer claims are hurting li’l Christian feelings, too. Personally, I think he still needs to be taken aside and reminded that school hours are for class work, not proselytizing. He’s going to waste his life if he doesn’t care more about getting a good education and it won’t matter how much love for Jesus he has if he can’t get a good job as well. I expect this story will follow him for years and there will be places that will not hire him – not because he’s Christian, but because he comes across as arrogant, self-centered and willfully ignorant of the fact it’s perfectly acceptable to not be Christian.

The moral: be careful what you preach because the internet can quote you…

May 3, 2012

…verbatim via video.

Pastor Sean Harris spoke recently at an event in North Carolina meant to promote the ban on same sex marriage. It was recorded for posterity, of course, and he is caught on video suggesting more than a few questionable behaviours parents should be willing to engage in in order to save their children from a sinful gay life. Not surprisingly, the video turned up on at least one site promoting LGBTQ etc. rights. Good as You and Pink News quote it. I’ll pick a bit of it, too:

Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male.

Pink News reports that Harris later claimed the LGBT community had taken his words out of context and twisted the meaning,

saying he “would never advocate for such discipline or actions on behalf of a father or mother”.

In a blog post addressed to members of his church he wrote: “I would never advocate for such discipline or actions on behalf of a father or mother. I misspoke. Hopefully, you understood that I was speaking in a forceful manner to emphasize the degree to which gender distinctions matter to God; and therefore, must matter to each of us and especially parents [...]

He stands by his belief that God’s avidly against homosexuality but has since retracted his comments and apologized for causing offense.

“I recognize that there are those in the LGBT community who believe that their sexual behavior is not sin. I do not agree with them and this official retraction should not be misunderstood as an apology for the gospel of Jesus Christ or the Word of God.”

Alternet ran a short article back in April suggesting that Jesus might have been gay.

Had he been devoid of sexuality, he would not have been truly human. To believe that would be heretical.

Heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual: Jesus could have been any of these. There can be no certainty which. The homosexual option simply seems the most likely. The intimate relationship with the beloved disciple points in that direction. It would be so interpreted in any person today. Although there is no rabbinic tradition of celibacy, Jesus could well have chosen to refrain from sexual activity, whether he was gay or not. Many Christians will wish to assume it, but I see no theological need to. The physical expression of faithful love is godly. To suggest otherwise is to buy into a kind of puritanism that has long tainted the churches.

Harris would never buy that, of course. It doesn’t fit in with his specific world view.

The bible isn’t a straightforward book. It’s filled with analogy and metaphor and glaring inaccuracies. It’s not a history book set out to record events as they actually happened. It’s a never-out-of-print relic of a bygone age, the collected stories of people who lived over two thousand years ago and how they thought, believed and ruled themselves. There’s no denying that some of the rules set down back then were socially and culturally valuable and still worth setting into law (laws against theft and murder come to mind). Other things were very time-specific and very detrimental to the rights of all human beings – like slavery and homosexuality as abomination – and are nothing current educated societies should promote as valid now.

But people like Harris still will. At least he apologized for the way he attempted to preach his message. That was good of him. Negative press does wonders.

A Question of Atheist Scruples – Round 1

May 1, 2012

I found a copy of this at Value Village, a version of the game from 1984. I had no idea the game was still being made, though. According to official rules:

Scruples makes players sweat as they ask each other what they would do in a moral predicament. Luckily no one has to tell the truth and there’s no right answer!

Well, I guess that’s one way to play it. I was planning on playing it straight, though, since the point of this whole endeavor is to demonstrate an atheist’s ability to make ethical and moral choices. I’m going to pick three questions out of my card deck and answer them seriously. A fourth question will be added for readers who want to “play along” but feel free to respond to any question that looks like fun to answer.

So, question 1: You’ve gone to see a nude show. Next day, a female colleague asks how you spent the evening. Do you tell her?

Recall here that I am a woman, not a guy.

First, it depends on the atmosphere of the work place. I know people who made the mistake of telling coworkers they’d gone to the casino when it first opened and rumours got flying about how often they were probably gambling. Some of them were close to the truth, but that’s beside the point. Gossip might be the glue that holds a social group together but what people do off the job should be their own business (so long as it’s not illegal or hurting anyone). People love to judge other people on their choices, though. Setting up the notion that someone might have a reputation as a problem gambler (or “slut”) may effect how that person is treated in the workplace.

Second, it depends on how well I know her and what her role is in that workplace in comparison to mine. If she’s my supervisor, I don’t know if I’d admit I went to Chippendales or whatever. If I knew the woman well enough to know she was heavily religious and unlikely to be impressed with my blasé account of seeing men with their kit off, I’d probably lie and say I’d stayed in. If she was someone I did know well who’d be heartily envious over how I spent my night, I’d go to town elaborating on the show when we found a quiet time to catch up.

As an aside, Saskatchewan is the only province in Canada that bans the mixing of strip clubs and alcohol. A protest show called “Naked if I Want” is set to run here in Saskatoon on May 4th at the Cosmo Civic Centre. Email mybodymydance@hotmail.com to get more information or request a place on the guest list.

The idea was for the Liberals to host the stripping event and oppose the alcohol control regulation that prohibits establishments from serving liquor when the entertainment involves nudity, a strip tease performance, or a wet clothing contest—but the party shut it down.

“The members didn’t like it, there was no official policy passed, so it got shut down,” Buckner said. “I was devastated.”

Buckner, who performs as a drag king with the stage name Stevie Blunder, has since decided to hold the show and give the proceeds to support the Saskatoon Slut Walk and Consentfest. Both events are dedicated to “ending victim-blaming and making sex-positive attitudes where we really need them—here in Saskatchewan,” she said.

What a good first question. You’d think I had planned it so I could lead into that story, but I assure it it was all coincidence.

Question 2: In his will, a man leaves your charitable organization a substantial bequest but fails to provide for his sick widow. (The bastard!) The whole estate is needed to maintain the widow. (Shit!) Do you fight to keep the bequest?

Cripes. Temptation is to keep it, but if word got out, and it inevitably would hit the Twitterverse in a heartbeat, my organization would be likely shitbombed with complaints and accusations and a withdrawal of support from dedicated donors. Bloggers would write about this poor woman and set up funds so people the world over could dig deep into their own wallets for a couple bucks to help her out. She’d probably get a lot more money that way… but the right thing to do would be to announce publicly that the bequest was going to be redirected to her. The good press garnered from that magnanimous gesture would boost my reputation as a caring person and probably boost donations to my charity. Maybe I wouldn’t get the same dollar value in the long run, but I’d feel better about myself. She’d get the help she needs and I’d still be able to help others. Win win.

Question 3: You are the director of the neighbourhood food cooperative. A member – a single mother with four children – is caught shoplifting $30 in groceries. You suspect she has been stealing for years. Do you press charges?

I had to look up how food co-ops work. I’ve never used one, but I’ve walked by Steep Hill on Broadway quite often.

As a co-operative, our products represent what our members want: quality, not profit, is our motive. We as Steep Hill members have the opportunity to be involved with the everyday operation of our store through a monthly work commitment.

Shopping at Steep Hill is a friendly experience, without the pressures and stresses of supermarket shopping. Meeting your neighbours, getting to know people with similar concerns are added attractions at Steep Hill Co-op. Nobody profits except the members.

Okay, so I think what might work in a case like this would be bringing it to the attention of the other members to get their input. Would they be pissed off enough to want to cancel her membership or would they be willing to make arrangements for her to work the value of the food off? With four kids, she’d definitely need the food. I suppose it would also depend on how bad off she actually is. What if this is a woman who got a hell of a divorce settlement and could afford to buy organic at Sobeys but likes to give the impression that she’s merely a community conscious volunteer? In that case, yeah, I would want to press charges.

Question 4, and open to comments from the peanut gallery: You’ve accepted a date when someone you REALLY like calls and asks you out for the same night. Do you try to get out of the first date?

Okay, some of the questions are a little less thought-provoking than others…

If there are requests to ban it, I can request The Hunger Games for my Banned Book Club

May 1, 2012

Have to get through Catch-22 first, though. What a slog it is so far, but I’m hoping it’ll pick up as I get further in. Not denying the funny, I’m just bogged down by all the characters right now. Poor Major Major Major Major…

Anyway, yeah, Jezebel reports that parents are up in arms over Suzanne Collins and her dystopian future trilogy where kids are forced to compete in bizarre games in order to get fed. I haven’t read these books but judging by how many the library has bought, I’m thinking I’ll have to see if I can snag myself a copy and see what the hell all this fuss is all about. I’m so out of touch.

The Hunger Games appeared by itself in the number five spot on the 2010 list, but now the entire trilogy has earned a number three ranking. Apparently it’s grown more unpopular with grownups since the movie came along and boosted the popularity of the trilogy with kids. Figures. Here are the main charges leveled against the books: “anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence.”

Sure, the books deal with some very adult themes, but maybe it’s not the books we should really be worried about. According to Barbara Jones, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, many of the complaints that came in to the ALA about the The Hunger Games books were actually related to the movie version:

There was complaining about the choice of actors for the film. You had people saying someone was dark-skinned in the book, but not in the film, or dark-skinned in the film and not in the book. In general, a lot more people were aware of the books and that led to more kinds of complaints.

That’s amusing. Take that kind of crap up with the casting people, people. At least efforts were made to keep it properly diverse. No more films with guys like Mickey Rooney playing Japanese…

The author of the piece notes that Suzanne really ought to be proud of her top ten standing and I agree. She’s in among the greats, namely Harper Lee and Aldous Huxley. Our group already read To Kill a Mockingbird and Brave New World.

I’m late commenting on the Saskatoon atheist angst…

April 30, 2012

Local story, though, so I should have been more on the ball. Life getting in the way a little, I think. Interesting times and all that.

Anyway, there was some brouhaha earlier this month when a man by the name of Ashu Solo got a bit miffed over having to sit through a prayer at a civic function. The National Post picked up the story:

A Christian prayer by a city councillor at a City of Saskatoon volunteer appreciation dinner discriminated against non-Christians, says a volunteer who intends to complain to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.

Ashu Solo, a member of the city’s cultural diversity and race relations committee, was among the guests at the dinner Wednesday, where Coun. Randy Donauer said a blessing over the food in which he mentioned Jesus and ended with “amen.”

“It made me feel like a second-class citizen. It makes you feel excluded,” said Solo, who is an atheist.

“It’s ironic that I’ve now become a victim of religious bigotry and discrimination at this banquet that was supposed to be an appreciation banquet for the service of volunteers like me.”

He started with a letter to the Mayor and passed out copies to the rest of City Council, too. Mayor Atchison was “caught off guard,” over the complaint regarding prayer, the article goes on-

because many of the events he attends include a prayer before meals.

“I’ve never given it any thought at all,” he said.

Atchison said he is sorry to hear Solo felt excluded.

While Atchison suggested perhaps featuring prayers from other belief systems and sometimes skipping prayers all together, this notion didn’t satisfy Solo. He wanted an apology and a commitment to scrap prayer at all civic events or he was going to take things up with the Human Rights board. Good luck with that…

Understandably, there are differing opinions regarding Solo’s complaints and intentions. Friendly Atheist wrote stuff up about this, taking the side that Solo over-reacted. Indi in the Wired had this to say:

When you feel insulted or marginalized as an atheist, the first step is not to point fingers and scream “bigotry” and “discrimination”, it’s to think – to understand the insult or slight better. And that doesn’t mean a thought process like, “well, i’ve seen other cases of bigotry and discrimination that sorta kinda look like this, so… that must be what it is!”; it means real thinking – we’re a movement that prides itself on rationality, so we should act like we believe what we preach. Understand the insult or slight, and its motivation, then decide on the best response: which could be firing up the word processor for some hot letters to the editor… or it could be a gentle reminder that atheists exist, and have feelings, too.

There’s this editorial out of the National Post as well, where Barbara Kay mocks Solo and the atheist movement in general, making us all out to be whiny complainers who’ll bawl over the littlest things. She claims Solo’s problems are nothing like real Christians suffer around the world. True enough, but I’d say she ought to look into some of the countries where people aren’t safe to be admitted atheists, either. Including areas of the USA and possibly parts of Canada. It’s just as big a concern, I’d say. Persecution is persecution.

She’s right about abusing human rights commissions over petty grievances, though. She and Hemant Mehta make the point that Solo could have discussed his concerns about including a prayer with the organizers of the event after the fact and simply request they consider dropping such blessings in the future. Claiming his rights have been violated because he was stuck hearing “Amen” before he could receive his volunteer award makes him seem… well, petty. Why drag Council and the Mayor and everything else into it?

I believe Atchison when he claims he never gave it a thought. Christians don’t. It’s just the every day thing and who takes much notice of how others might feel to be surrounded by people praying when they might not share the same beliefs? I recall being at a co-worker’s home for a meal once and the whole damn family broke into some praise song before they served any food. Good gravy, what the fuck is this.. awkward much? So I’m stuck standing there while everyone sings joyfully and in tune. Real good time for the atheist stranger in the crowd.

By and large, I don’t really care for the whole blessing thing either. They do it at my work Christmas party and it’s the library. That’s city. Why have prayer at that city event? But it’s there. One year it came from a rabbi. Last year it was some random babble from an employee’s kid. I’m not going to go up and whine about it. I’ll just sit there and ignore it. It doesn’t concern me. It bores me more than anything. If you’re going to thank anyone, thank the makers of the food and everyone else who played a part in getting it to the table.

I found an anonymous piece (via friend and commenter koinosuke) at the Star Phoenix offering more on this:

Whether it’s the non-denominational theistic prayer with which the provincial legislature opens its daily business or a city councillor invoking Jesus at a taxpayer-funded civic event meant to honour volunteers, it’s time that Saskatchewan reconsiders such practices in venues where secular public proceedings are held.

For as much as Judeo-Christian ethics and practices have contributed greatly to shaping western society, the Saskatoon of today isn’t a Christian society but a richly diverse community where atheist Ashu Solo, a member of the city’s cultural diversity and race relations committee, is justified in asking to be spared from religion at a public function.

His request isn’t an impingement on the freedom of religion claimed by his critics, whose right to practise their beliefs is protected by law, with tax deductions granted by senior governments to those who donate to religious organizations and tax abatements granted by the municipality for church property.

He’s not saying make all religion go away (even if he’d like it to). He’s saying make overt prayer go away at civic events. People can pray at their own tables if they feel like it but does the whole damn place have to stand up to honour a god they may not follow or give a damn about?

It’s a stupid tradition that’s easily done away with if people would just up and do away with it.

quick edit: via koinosuke I get another link: CFI has a media advisory out about Solo and the filing of his complaint on May first.

In terms of comparative religion, why not include paganism?

April 15, 2012

I watched The Wicker Man recently; the 1973 release, not the Nicholas Cage remake that’s only good to watch for a laugh. Mind you, as an atheist I found humour in the original where I’m sure none was intended at the time it was made. I caught myself sniggering as the righteous Christian Sergeant Howie (played by Edward Woodward) gets more and more distressed at the education, habits and traditions of the people living on Summerisle. A very young Christopher Lee plays Lord Summerisle who explains to him how the paganist roots of the community got started. His grandfather had to engineer and modify the crops he brought to the island because they wouldn’t grow well in the soil otherwise. In order to make sure the locals had faith in his new apple trees etc., he had them pray to the Goddess of the Harvest and follow other ancient rites (a lot of which required naked women and outdoor orgies) and when they were rewarded with an excellent harvest, they were led to believe their new religion was the reason, thus encouraging them to keep it up year after year. But now it looks like the crops are starting to fail and Howie is easily led to believe that a young girl is going to be sacrificed on May Day to ensure a good crop next year. He realizes, a bit belatedly, that he’s a bit wrong about that…

But anyway, a friend of mine added a link to her Facebook page that I simply had to click on. It’s from the Daily Mail’s coverage of the news that Cornwall schools must add paganism into their religion courses, even down to the early childhood levels. Cornwall Council is clearly catering to a fringe movement in the area (the upper estimate puts 750 pagans in a population of 537,400 so .001 percent) but its inclusion gives it the practice a legitimacy that was otherwise lacking. This alarms the Christian campaigners who are against the move, of course. They’re claiming it’s a time issue, that the course can’t devote enough time to the majors let alone a fringe religion, thus it’s a waste of time including it.

‘Introducing paganism is just faddish and has more to do with the political correctness of teachers than the educational needs of children.’

Is it a fad to include Buddhism, Judaism and Islam, as well? Did anyone ever try to claim that those are only included because of political correctness instead of educational value? It’s too much of a straw man argument to extend this toward them wanting all Christianity all the time in that class and nothing else, but deep down it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the way a few of them think. It tops the list of commandments, doesn’t it? No other gods but me? (Commandments aimed very specifically at the Israelites and their YHWH, but neveryoumind…)

This, too, is something of a stretch, but I wonder if their attitude might have a bit to do with concerns over what might get taught in terms of how early Christians behaved toward pagans. They moved into the area and usurped a belief system that had flourished for hundreds of years and what beliefs they didn’t ban they stole and repurposed toward their own ends. Glory glory hallelujah.

Paganism is historically relevant in Cornwall so the fact that a minority of people have chosen to retain the traditions is a fact kids should be allowed to learn in school.

Neil Burden, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said that the move would give children ‘access to the broad spectrum of religious beliefs’.

The council said the teaching of Christianity still accounted for nearly two-thirds of religious education in its schools.

Clearly they don’t like things to be fair, with equal time devoted to all the religions included in the syllabus but maybe they’d make the argument that .001 percent worth of pagans suggests a mere .001 percent of class time should be given over to them. And I don’t think I’d disagree with using a rationing approach of some kind. If the intent is to expose students to all available religious lifestyles in their geographical area then it’s probably logical to spend more time on the ones they’re most likely to run into in their day to day lives and just touch on the others out there that aren’t so in-the-face all the time.

I wonder what their approach is in terms of validity of religions overall; if the teachers promote Christianity above all other faiths as if it’s the right and only one worth having, or if they teach this so kids will come away from the course understanding that every religion is essentially the same in terms of purpose; they all exist to impose some kind of order on an otherwise chaotic world.

Bottom line, I don’t see the harm in including paganism in this course. I don’t remember much about my school days but I know I learned nothing about whatever beliefs would have been held by the aboriginal population of my province before the Christians ran ripshod over their culture and decimated it. It would have been interesting but my religion class was aimed only at getting the kids ready to be proper Catholics, whatever the hell that might mean. I never had a religion class like this Cornwall one until I hit university and it was quite the eye opener, to say the least. It’s good that these kids don’t have to wait until university to get the same experience.

FFRF not finished fight over Big Mountain Jesus

February 10, 2012

I missed this on Wednesday, but the Wisconsin-based group has been trying to get this Jesus statue (image via The Blaze) removed from Montana’s Whitefish Mountain Resort. At the end of January the Forestry Service renewed the special permit the Knights of Columbus needed to keep their memorial in place for another ten years. I figured that would be the end of it, that the Freedom from Religion Foundation would consider it a loss and move their “separation of church and state” issue to another public religious eyesore but clearly I missed the part where they said, “We’re not done here.” The FFRF was, shall we say, disappointed over the Service’s choice to side with “tradition” and “historic” and the Jesus loving KOC and have decided to take the issue a step further – now they’re suing.

Ian Cameron of the newly formed Flathead Area Secular Humanist Association provided some more information about how the statue got there.

Cameron pointed to a 1954 Whitefish Pilot article about the statue’s dedication ceremony as evidence of its unabashed religious symbolism. The article refers to the statue as a “shrine” whose placement on the mountain came at the behest of Catholic skiers participating in the National Ski Championships, which were held at Big Mountain in 1949 and 1951.

“Several of the world’s leading skiers are Catholics and they asked why a shrine had not been placed,” according to the article. Those skiers included early pioneers of the Big Mountain ski area like Toni Matt, former U.S. downhill champion who served as a lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division.

Still, Cameron said the religious connotations cannot be ignored.

“That contradicts all of the previous reports,” Cameron said. “We are not militant atheists out to stamp out religion. We are fighting to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table.”

Cameron said he formed the Flathead Area Secular Humanist Association last September, just as news of the statue’s uncertain fate was reported. Until then, he never knew the statue existed, and to his knowledge none of the association’s roughly two dozen members had complained.

“I’m not a skier so I hadn’t seen it, but now that I know it’s out there looking down on the valley, I am offended,” Cameron said. “It bothers me that it’s up there and that it’s on government land.”

Ubiquitous is the word. Statues are all over the place and often they have some sort of symbolic connection to a faith or religion and most people probably acknowledge their existence without thinking much about them, or simply ignore them altogether. Well, the Freedom from Religion Foundation is standing firm on the idea that it’s time to stop ignoring them. If the statues are on public property, especially government property, then everyone who walks past the thing without thinking needs to be reminded to think about the separation of church and state and why it’s so important to maintain that.

U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., a vocal supporter of the statue from the beginning, pledged to continue his support of the statue.

“The Whitefish community and the Forest Service did not ask for this fight, but we’re going to do whatever is necessary to win it,” he said Wednesday in an email responding to the lawsuit. “In this case, the Forest Service made the right decision to extend the permit and let the monument stand. They have the overwhelming support of the local community and the American people in their stand against litigious bullies who want to force their narrow beliefs on the rest of us.”

This old canard again? Believe whatever the hell you want. Just don’t force others to do the same and don’t assume you deserve any special treatments because of your beliefs. The statue needs to be moved. It’s promoting a religion and it’s on government property. That is, and has always been, a no no in your country. Never mind how many people and organizations have gotten away with it for years, it’s still wrong. If people still desire a war memorial on the property, design a secular themed one that recognizes the sacrifices made by all soldiers, not just the ones who died Catholic. Why act like it’s more complicated than that? The Blaze article included a link to the FFRF’s site so I’ll finish with a quote from that:

“A federal agency should not hold a vote on whether to obey the Constitution!” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

“The U.S. Forest Service has unlawfully misused federal land owned by all of us to further Christianity in general, and Roman Catholicism in particular. This diminishes the civil and political standing of nonreligious and nonChristian Americans, and shows flagrant governmental preference for religion and Christianity.”

It’s important for people to continue to speak out against that kind of thing. I know it starts to look like they’re tilting at windmills and making pests out of themselves but it’s still an important issue and it’s high time more people started calling “Foul!” rather then put up with it silently. That’s why it’s such a drama to get this kind of thing stopped now. Too many years of being silent. Now there’s a vocal atheist minority that’s tired of going unheard. I don’t know if they’ll win this, but I’m glad to see they want to try.

Tacky Whitefish Jesus remains on mountain top – for now

February 1, 2012

The Forestry Service has caved to Christian pressure decided to renew the Knights of Columbus special permit which allows them to advertise for Jesus keep their memorial in place for a further ten years.

Forest Service supervisor Chip Weber stated reasons for the decision, namely the statue can be considered a historical monument if people want to go that route, “and that no substantive concerns related to environmental conditions were found in about 95,000 comments received by the agency.”

Environmental concerns? It’s not hurting the land to have it there, so leave it there? That’s their answer? True, it’s just a statue on a ski hill and no doubt Whitefish and the Service have a good arrangement in place for keeping the land cared for while still letting skiers have at it, but there’s a bigger picture they’re ignoring as they check the grass for owies. I guess part of the problem here is a pick-your-battles kind of thing. Of all the issues out there for people who want to raise awareness, separation of church and state isn’t necessarily going to be a high priority for all listeners. There’s environment, there’s education, there’s this other thing and that one. Yes, there are other things that need attention but that doesn’t mean this issue should be swept under the rug and forgotten. It matters, and will matter so long as so many diverse groups believe different things and want different things but still all want to live in the same country. Which means, it’ll matter forever.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which argues the religious statue does not belong on public land, said it anticipated the agency’s reversal. It argues that the Forest Service was breaching separation of church and state rules by leasing the 25-by-25 foot patch of land for the Jesus statue.

“We have no objection to shrines like these on private property. That is where they belong,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “I think it will be very easy to show that this special permit is a sham.”

Gaylor said the public comments received by the Forest Service do not make its decision any more constitutional.

“We think we have a very strong case. There is just no question that the Knights of Columbus should not be given a special use permit,” she said

But for now the statue stays. Better luck next decade, I guess…

Quotable opinion that matches mine

January 30, 2012

It’s from Heather Mallick’s recent piece for the Toronto Star, discussing her atheism in tandem with her approach to journalism and human rights. She notes religion has never been a big blip on her radar but I think she’s wrong when she claims, “Religion sails past atheists like a paper airplane.” Many atheists have a decent handle on the nature of religion on account of growing up in one and then finding the way out. Those who spend their time blogging about injustice and misbehaviour on the part of followers (and atheists, too – we’re equal opportunity complainers) make a point of pointing out the parts of the belief systems that create and allow that behaviour to flourish. She may consider herself one of the many soft-spoken atheists who haven’t yet been encouraged to reach full volume, as it were, but others are well on their way and always prepared to encourage more to make their voices heard. Anyway, a story she shares:

Last summer I wrote a column about a Don Mills school where imams conduct Islamic prayers in the cafeteria, with the boys at the front, the girls behind them and menstruating girls at the back in a sad little huddle.

I genuinely believed that parents and education officials who read this would object to two things: females being treated as second-class compared to boys, and students missing class time that would not be made up later. To me, religion had nothing to do with it.

What a dolt I was. I fully expected little bands of parent-protestors to show up at Valley Park with signs: Girls + Boys=Canada! We are the 99% for Grammar! End Tampon Shame!

Of course I was wrong. I was called a “gender Nazi,” whatever that may be. I heard from Muslims, any number of religionists who didn’t happen to like Muslims, incensed parents who put obedience over literacy, racists (many of these) and Angry Pyjamas (but I always hear from them) but I heard almost nothing from feminists or teachers.

This was a grave disappointment.

I shall try not to write about religion again, even inadvertently. For I am an atheist and we atheists have to keep our stick on the ice. We have no faith. We are polite. We do not believe. We are not interested in belief.

The world would be a better place if we made more noise.

I don’t know what Angry Pyjamas are, presumably the folks who read news stories as they enjoy their breakfasts in front of their computers and are awake enough to give the world what-for via flaming anonymous comments.

We all should be interested in belief, atheist or not. When beliefs about the world and one’s status in it are ruled by strange laws gleaned from the religious writings of old instead of decided via rational thought processes, that’s where the bulk of the problems crop up. The treatment of women in Islamic culture is a big problem, one Muslims would have to want to fix. It doesn’t matter how much outsiders might protest and rally for the women who want to drive or dress Western or get educated
. Until the believers are willing to set aside the archaic beliefs and match pace with the rest of the world in terms of human rights, stories like these will continue to hit newspapers and blogs.

But I agree with her. The world would be better if we made more noise, atheist or otherwise. Why do we sit by and let that crap continue unprotested? What’s up with the apathy? What’s up with the topsy-turvy reactions to what should have been the real issue at stake there? Why weren’t more people irate for the reasons she thought they’d be? Do people really want to see girls kept second class? I doubt it.


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