Wait… A Town Is Going To Move Its Cross Without Going To Court?

Though the Christians could say “Batten
Down the hatches!” here in Stratton
They’ve decided unexpectedly to follow good advice:
“You’d do best to cut your losses
By distributing the crosses—
Maybe put them in some private yards; I’m sure they’d still look nice.”

Former Mayor, Fred Abdalla
Found removal hard to swallow:
“Move our crosses? For outsiders? We’ll do nothing of the sort!”
A solicitor-advisor
Whose opinion was the wiser
Said the crosses were illegal, and they’d surely lose in court

Current mayor, John (Fred’s brother)
Though they share, of course, a mother,
Seem to differ in opinion (and it’s John’s that wins the day)
Seems the town can’t be religious
‘less they want to get litigious
So the Stratton village crosses, now, are gonna go away.

So, yeah, the FFRF told the Village of Stratton, Ohio that some crosses displayed on public property were illegally placed, and warned that they would sue if they were not removed… and the village is, quite sensibly and unexpectedly, removing them. Mind you, they don’t want to, and a good number of locals would rather fight their relocation… but:

“I refused to remove them at first,” Mayor John Abdalla told The Herald-Star. “I have them for safekeeping. (The foundation) even raised hell about the manger scene at the front of the building.”
After speaking with the village solicitor, Abdalla decided the crosses were to be removed. But despite the removal, the crosses will now be given to private landowners to display on their property.
“At the regular council meeting at the council of the village of Stratton, council unanimously resolved to give the crosses that were taken off the building,” Stratton Village Solicitor Frank Bruzzese told WTOV-TV. “The result will be that (the crosses) will be on display actually more visible to the public than they used to be.”

A win-win! The FFRF will have no problem with crosses on private property, and the villages who love the crosses will get to have them all the more visible! Perfect, isn’t it? Well… not quite:

[Stratton Village Soliciter, Frank] Bruzzese stated that the atheist group has not produced anyone that was offended by the crosses.
Even though the crosses will still be displayed on private land, Abdalla is not happy about the situation.
“They don’t have the guts to come up and say, ‘It’s me that’s saying this,’” Abdall told WTOV. “Everything is anonymous.”

Cos if nobody is offended by you violating the constitution, then apparently it doesn’t count. Or worse, if you an intimidate people into not vocalizing their offense at your violation of the constitution, it doesn’t count.

It doesn’t help, though, that the former mayor and current sheriff (and the current mayor’s brother) wants to put up a fight:

But his brother, long time Stratton resident and former mayor, sheriff Fred Abdalla says they must stand up for themselves.

“We are not going to bow down and say oh well take the crosses down no well fight and let the fight begin,” sheriff Abdalla said.

And town residents ought to listen to the solicitor as well:

Some residents believe the village should be able to keep the crosses there.

Dan Carman of Hopedale says he does not understand the groups motives.

“You can be whatever religion you want. I don’t understand why you have to worry about satisfying anyone not being religious,” he said.

That’s right, Dan, you can be whatever religion you want. But your village cannot. It’s that simple.

Just Marking Their Territory

Everywhere the big dog goes, he leaves his little sign
Alerting all the other dogs, “This property is mine!”
“This is mine, and this is mine, and this and this and this!”
He makes a claim of ownership, and seals it with a piss
He roams the streets and alleyways, and all around the town
He leaves his little messages, in yellow or in brown
He’s never paid a mortgage on the land he claims as his
He doesn’t pay the taxes; all he does is take a whizz
There are signs at every crossroads, half a dozen at the mall,
In the yards of private citizens, and one at City Hall—
These little signs are adding up, with more and more each day
But whenever I complain, they tell me “look the other way”

Take a look–Searcy, Arkansas has a dog problem. No, a God problem–I always get those two mixed up. There’s been a big God sniffing around and marking His territory all over town:

Seriously, those little white crosses are aesthetically crap–they must cost the church well under a buck apiece to make, they are not imaginative, nor artistic, nor historical, nor anything but tacky little ways for this God to mark its territory.

Around Cuttletown, there are people who post signs at intersections, advertising goods or services… and there are other folks who mark these signs with large, obscuring stickers that label the signs “LITTER” (which, legally, they are). The little white crosses, if placed on one’s own property, are nothing more than a sign of your tolerance for the tacky, a Christian equivalent of a plastic flamingo or ceramic garden gnome, but cheaper. If they are a sign of your faith, the sign’s message is “I love Jesus, but not enough to spend any money on Him–just enough to put up a tacky cross everyone knows they give out for free.”

No, the crosses serve no function other than that of a dog’s urine: they say “I’m the god (or dog) in charge here.” And the sheriff of Searcy rolls over and exposes his neck to appease the church, instead of picking the litter up off of the lawn and throwing it away.

Oklahoma Satanist Monument Now Fully Funded

That didn’t take long. As of this posting, they have $20,389 $21,455 of their proposed $20,000.

I like commenter Randomfactor’s idea; the statue should have built-in webcam eyes. Maybe a few more bucks… reading the various stories on this proposed statue, there is no shortage of volunteers ready to welcome it with open arms (of the second amendment sort), sledgehammers, chisels, jackhammers… it would be nice to have good, clear video of these nice people.

Freedom of religion means
My statue gets to stay,
And I get to tear down anything
That gets in my one’s way.
My monument must stand alone
For everyone to see…
No other statues anywhere–
That’s how we know we’re free.

Proposed Oklahoma Satanist Monument Is Really Quite Gorgeous

Though they’re looking for permission,
They’ve not quite received it yet;
But the Satanists’ new statue—
The goat-headed Baphomet—
Is more stunning than the Decalogue
Of simple, stark, black granite
By the Oklahoma capitol,
The place where they began it

If it’s deemed a public forum
Baphomet will find a spot
Just as public, to be legal,
As the one the Christians got
And the icing on the cake, you see,
The feather in their cap—
When the people come to visit
They can sit on Satan’s lap.

If the monument’s rejected
(Why they might, I cannot say)
Then, of course, the Ten Commandments
Should not, can not, must not stay:
Though a monument of Baphomet
Quite frankly, looks like fun…
Soon the place could get quite crowded,
And it must be all… or none.

Via Hemant, it seems the Satanic Temple has unveiled their proposed monument, to sit beside the black granite decalogue in Oklahoma City, at the capitol. Some sources are referring to it as a statue of Satan, others to a statue of Baphomet… it’s far more aesthetically pleasing than the old Ten Commandments monument. And, frankly, much more than the atheist bench in Florida.

Still, though, I would rather have a nice empty lawn–someplace the dogs can run.

Proposed Statue of Baphomet, the goat-headed deity.

Image credit: the Satanic Temple

Texas (of course) Mayor Declares 2014 “Year Of The Bible)

The Christian mayor of Flower Mound
Created a sensation—
He searched his soul, and thus felt bound
To make a proclamation:

This year, he said, would be the year
The town would find its way
Because they’ll read (he made it clear)
The bible every day

Each day, he posts a bible verse;
They study, to the letter
The world, you see, is getting worse
And this will make it better

If the godless get litigious
Then the mayor will play it tough…
Because Texas is religious,
But, it seems, not quite enough.

Yup, because Texas isn’t quite Christian enough already, the Mayor of Flower Mound has proclaimed 2014 the year of the bible. Or rather, “a” year of the bible, since he wants to do it again in 2015. They’ve got a website and everything:

The Bible consists of 66 books written by more than 40 different authors from all different walks of life over a period of 1.400 to 1,800 years. The amazing thing is that the Bible carries a perfect unity from cover to cover regarding its message and content, which speaks of its divine origin as ultimately written by God and not man.

Well, perhaps actually reading it will disabuse them of the notion that it “carries a perfect unity from cover to cover”.
Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Hmmm… at the time I started writing this, they had a functioning comment section on their site, with all positive comments. Now?

Due to the high traffic the site has experienced, we have disabled the Comments section.

Yeah… that must be why.

Breaking News: Mt. Soledad Cross Must Come Down! (…eventually, perhaps)

Today’s report from San Diego (oh, and read to the end of page 2–there’s a poll!):

A San Diego federal judge made a reluctant ruling Thursday that the cross atop Mount Soledad is unconstitutional, although the chances of the La Jolla monument coming down anytime soon are unlikely.

The latest ruling by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns will likely send the case back to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court declined to hear the case last year, but said it could reconsider once a lower court enters a final judgment.

Burns ordered the cross to be removed within 90 days, and then stayed that order until all appeals have been exhausted.

That’s right, they have to give a chance to run it by Scalia again, the justice who apparently really actually does believe that a Christian cross is a memorial to war dead of any and all faiths (which must be why the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America–with others–filed the suit). So don’t hold your breath. The Supremes had earlier kicked the case back to the lower court to let it simmer for a bit, rather than have the guts to decide.

As I said earlier…

The cross on the hill was a beautiful sight
On the days when the sky was most bluish;
It stood for the soldiers who gave up their lives
Well, except when the soldiers were Jewish.

The cross on the hill, it looked rugged and old
Though the city maintained it as newish;
The congressman said that it stood for the dead
Well, unless they were atheist, Muslim, or Jewish.

The cross on the hill was a secular thing—
That’s a lie, but it kinda sounds truish—
The judge said it symbolized service and loss
Well, except for the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Pagans, the Jains, the Confucians, the Shinto, the Sikh, the Druids, the Wiccans, Baha’i, Hare Krishna, Zoroastrian, Scientologists, atheists, Muslim or Jewish. Or the religions of the tribal nations who once owned the land the cross is on.

The cross on the hill is religious, of course
Said a Judge who rejected the woo-ish
And it can’t be a symbol for everyone there
If it doesn’t mean Buddhists, the Hindus, the Pagans, the Jains, the Confucians, the Shinto, the Sikh, the Druids, the Wiccans, Baha’i, Hare Krishna, Zoroastrian, Scientologists, atheists, Muslim or Jewish. Or, you know, the indans. Or even Christians who don’t want a symbol, or use a different cross from the Latin Cross, or (fades)


Mt. Soledad Cross Image by Will Fresch–wikipedia commons

Rants And Comments

The Coloradan has a fun opinion piece up, complaining that atheism is becoming the US national religion.

It’s a scattershot argument, at once claiming a near 80% Christian majority and demanding protection from persecution, since we are a republic, not a democracy. A fun read.

Anyway, I commented there, but I can’t tell whether it actually posted. I can see it just fine, but the comment count does not include mine. So I thought I’d put it here, just in case.

Ah yes… atheism is claimed by 1.6%, and “Christianity” by nearly 80, and you are complaining.

The situation you describe is unbelievable on the face of it. No rational person—and I assume you are a rational person—would ever claim that atheism was becoming the national religion of the US when all three branches of the federal government are dominated by Christians, when Congress feels the need to take time from their busy schedules to re-verify every couple of years that “In God We Trust” is our motto, when polls show “atheists” remain less likely to get someone’s vote than any other label tested… So, frankly, the situation cannot be as you describe it.

And it is not. The fact is, you are misrepresenting, badly, and you know it.

To begin, you complain of an attack on “religion in public life” or “whenever God finds his way into public view”. The truth is, even the most radical atheists are staunch defenders of the first amendment, and will defend your right to free expression. What we complain about (and what the courts have consistently agreed with) are the attempts to enlist the government (you note “Congress”, but conveniently omit any consideration of the 14th amendment—so it is not simply a matter of Congress siding with a religious view, but any representative of government) to take the side of one religion or another against all others, or against no religion.

In short, you can have religion in public life, but you cannot have it promoted or led by agents of the government. It’s a simple distinction.

You note that 78.4% of Americans are nominally “Christian”. What you don’t mention here, though, is that the various denominations of Christianity do not always agree. My sister is a devout Christian; her church strongly affirms and supports same-sex marriage. My uncle is a devout Christian; his church condemns same-sex marriage. If the government sides with one church, it sides against the other; it has, over the course of our history, been much healthier for churches not to allow the government to take sides.

One thing you had right, though, and I am glad of it—this is a republic, not a democracy. If it were not for our constitutionally protected freedoms, that 78.4%, should they ever happen to agree on something, could deny the basic rights of those who disagree. As is, the 1.6% you are complaining about only have the power they do because the constitution is on their side. One person plus the constitution beats 80% on the wrong side of the law.

I am glad, also, that you mention the founding fathers. It is, indeed, easy to see that they had no hesitation in declaring the importance of their faiths in God (remember, though, they did not share the same religion—there were, in fact, official religions for many of the colonies, so “Christianity” was not seen as the unifying label you treat it as)… which makes it all the more remarkable that the word “God” is not mentioned once in the Constitution, and the only mentions of religion are to expressly prohibit any religious test for office (article 6) and the first amendment (extended to all levels of government in the 14th). If they had wanted to say we are a Christian nation, they had every ability and opportunity to do so. They did not. They chose to keep government out of religion, and religion out of government. So please, by all means, practice your religion (even in public, if you want to ignore Matthew 6:6). But not while you are acting as an agent of government.

Like I said, it’s very simple.

Heh… no verse this time–but I clicked on “first amendment” up there under the title, and I am frankly astonished at how often I *have* written something I could have just pulled up for the situation. Is there nothing new under the sun?

“Equality Should Never Be Mistaken For Hostility”

“Some might view a rule against preferential treatment as exhibiting hostility toward religion, but equality should never be mistaken for hostility”—Judge Barbara B. Crabb, FFRF v. Geithner

When decades of deference
Yield to one’s preference
One can’t help but feel one’s virility!
As such, abrogation
Feels more like castration:
Equality feels like hostility!

When unequal treatment,
Alas, to defeat went,
It hampered one’s amiability
It saddens me greatly,
The things I’ve seen lately—
Equality feels like hostility!

The rules that one follows,
The treatment one swallows,
When seen as mere pawns, not nobility;
Old privilege relaxes—
We have to pay taxes?
Equality feels like hostility!

It feels like it’s malice;
One’s parsonage palace
Possesses no public utility?
Its worth, despite searches
Is merely the church’s?
Equality feels like hostility!

This horrible feeling
Means, clearly, appealing—
And winning, in all probability;
The free exercise clause
Will excuse them, because
Equality feels like hostility!

Churches of all stripes have, for decades, enjoyed various tax exemptions under US tax code, because reasons. Reasons. Reasons, dammit! As the sponsor of the 1954 bill in question, Rep. Peter Mack, argued :

Certainly, in these times when we are being threatened by a godless and anti-religious world movement we should correct this discrimination against certain ministers of the gospel who are carrying on such a courageous fight against this. Certainly this is not too much to do for these people who are caring for our spiritual welfare

Not every legal opinion is fun to read. This one is. This was the case where the best (perhaps only) argument the government had was to claim that the atheist co-presidents of the Freedom from Religion Foundation were… clergy, thus deserving of the tax break and in no position to sue. A simple look at Mack’s quote above is enough to show the silliness there, but the full opinion is a marvelous 43 pages of smackdown.

I’m sure it will be appealed, and I dread the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Oh, yeah… buy my book:
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

In The Near Distant Future, A Christian Looks Back With Regret

Remember the days when “Majority rules!”
Was the rallying cry in our town halls and schools?
We’d meet by the hundreds and kick up a fuss—
The majority, then, were the People Like Us.
The People Like Us (or for short, PLU’s)
Were the people believing in similar views;
PLU’s making up the majority there,
We wanted our meetings begun with a prayer
It would always be Christian, or often enough
We could simply ignore the minority stuff;
At most, we’d be waiting for maybe a week
Till the time when a Christian had our turn to speak.

We wanted the prayer to be part of the law
The majority view was the way that we saw!
Town meetings that open by praying to Jesus
Are all that we wanted… and all that would please us.
So we voted. Of course, when the vote went our way,
We were happy, cos all PLU’s had their say
Because we had the power to get something done
And minority groups held but little or none
And everyone listened, when we gave the word,
And no one complained… at least, no one we heard.
The majority’s right; the majority’s strong;
The majority voted… so what could go wrong?

We’d never considered… the thought was too strange…
But the fact is that, sometimes, majorities… change.
We were once the majority—my, we were proud;
We demanded our way! We were brash! We were loud!
How I wish we’d thought then, because now is too late,
Of the dangerous mixing between church and state,
And I wish we’d considered some sort of a wall
So the church and the state couldn’t mingle at all
Because government prayer is a thing we condemn,
Now the voting majority’s People Like Them
We got what we wanted, so we hold the blame…
It’s majority rules! What a shame! What a shame!

So a recent new follower of mine on twitter is the communications director for the National Day of Prayer Task Force. These folks are looking at Greece, NY, as a landmark case that will help to codify government-led prayer. The above verse is my thinking–I cannot imagine why any religious person would ever willingly choose to give the government the power to back a specific religious view (or even a general one). History is full of the waxing and waning of faith communities; a “majority rules” that favors your religion today is the same law that confers second-class status on you tomorrow. Giving up your independence to hitch yourself to power seems like a good idea when the power goes your way… but the success of religions in the US comes from their independence from government, not from their close ties.

Hey, Let’s Decide Your Rights With A Poll!

The cross is there, on public land;
It’s been there fifty years.
The courts will say it cannot stand;
So, surely, it appears.
The local Christians see the case
A battle for our soul
Instead of legal argument…
It’s time to run a poll.

In Middleboro, MA, there is a cross on the median strip of a bit of Route 28. A 7-foot cross of red brick, with the word “WORSHIP” in faded white letters, that has been there for 50 years, since the Kiwanis club constructed it. The grassy island is owned in part by the city, in part by the state, but

In an effort to resolve the matter, the state and county agreed to donated their shares of the island to the town, which in turn will sell it to the local Kwianas Club.

At least one citizen is worried there will be trouble:

Jeff Stevens lobbied town meeting to stay out of the fray, fearing the town will become embroiled in a lawsuit threatened by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This is not a Middleboro problem,” Stevens said. “It will open up our town to legal challenges.”

I’m sure you can guess how the vote went:

Town meeting ignored Stevens’ petition by a wide margin and supported selectmen 228 to 10. The vote drew a round of applause.

It’s like Cranston, and Jackson, and so many more… never happened.

Anyway, there is currently a poll at the site, asking your opinion of the cross– is it “a religious symbol that has no place on public property”, or “an appropriate expression of religious freedom”? As of now, it’s roughly two to one the wrong way.