Now let's look at a very different situation. In this one, you commit no crime at all. Instead, you complain about someone else violating the law. Specifically, you become aware of a violation of separation of church and state, and you file a complaint. That's it. But once again, you face public outrage. People are every bit as upset with you as what we described in the first case. Many experience the same sort of violent urges, and you receive death threats. You are fired, stalked, and repeatedly threatened. And you know what? Once again, nobody is surprised. Nobody.
This is precisely the situation in which many atheists in conservative parts of the U.S. find themselves. If you don't believe me, you aren't as informed about the aftermath of church-state complaints as you should be.
Texas Professor Fired, Threatened After Successful Church-State Complaint
Consider a recent case out of Texas. Sissy Bradford, an adjunct professor of criminology at Texas A&M University - San Antonio, was fired, threatened, and stalked after Americans United for Separation of Church and State took legal action prompted by her complaint and won. The subject of Bradford's 2011 complaint was a taxpayer-funded tower featuring four Christian crosses built at the campus entrance. Americans United had the crosses removed, and Bradford's ordeal began.
According to Americans United, Bradford was then "subjected to months of vicious backlash from cross defenders." She even sought police protection but says her requests were ignored. In a statement to police, Bradford said:
I am being stalked & harassed & threatened by student(s) & community members because I am not a Christian. There exists a clear & prolonged pattern of unwanted communication, contact, threats, & invasion of privacy.After the police refused to act, some Bradford's students began escorting her to her car and speaking out in her defense. And then they started receiving threats for their efforts.
The university dismissed her without explanation earlier this month. Granted, this is not terribly unusual for an adjunct professor. They do not receive the same consideration as full-time employees, but it sounds fishy given the timing and Bradford's expectation that she would be teaching in the Fall. My guess is that they decided she was simply too much trouble and that they would look bad if anything happened to her.
Are any of us really surprised by what happened to Bradford? Again and again, we have seen what brave individuals must endure simply for standing up to violations of church-state separation. Damon Fowler, Jessica Ahlquist, Sissy Bradford, and many others remind us exactly why more of us need to speak out.
And what of the threats that inevitably come from some Christians whenever one of these complaints is successful? What are we to make of them? This, dear reader, is Christian terrorism. The Christians who make these threats are waging a campaign of terror to instill fear and keep us silent. Try as I might to avoid it, I feel that this conclusion is inescapable.
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