December 2, 2008

Kudos To Washington State Atheists

The Washington State Capitol Leglislative Buil...Image via WikipediaAccording to The Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA), conflict has been brewing in the Washington State Capitol over the past few years. In 2005, state Rep. John Ahern (R-Spokane) decided to protest the state's decision to call a large evergreen tree placed inside the Capitol this time of year a "holiday tree." Evidently, Rep. Ahern found this form of cultural sensitivity unacceptable. He gathered some like-minded Christians to sing carols on the Capitol steps and added a small "Merry Christmas" sign and a cardboard menorah at the bottom of the tree. In 2006, rabbis showed up to light a large menorah with the Governor, and Christians asked for a nativity scene. The state initially denied this request but then caved during a lawsuit, paving the way for the nativity scene the following year. Now the state says they'll allow virtually any sort of religious or political display. Enter the atheists.

This year, Christians plan to erect a Nativity scene on one side of the capitol's rotunda (remember, this is a state capitol building). Evidently, members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation are planning their own display for the other side of the dome, a sign "declaring that there is no God and that 'religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.'"

I find this a fascinating example of what can happen when governments refuse to enforce the Constitutional ban on promoting religion. Had the state done the right thing from the beginning (i.e., refusing to permit the nativity scene or the menorah and allowing the case to go to court if necessary), we would have a a simple holiday tree onto which everyone could project their own religious delusions.

Because the state failed to honor the law, we are left with a situation where every religious and political group imaginable may soon be competing for space in government buildings. Now this may sound strange coming from me, but I don't particular want anti-religious propaganda in a government building anymore than I want pro-religious propaganda in the same building. I agree that if the Christian garbage has to be there that the atheist stuff belongs too. However, none of it should be permitted in the first place.

It is becoming increasingly clearer to me that Christian extremists, such as those who are offended when someone says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," are making far more progress in secularizing their allegedly sacred holidays than we atheists ever could. Had Rep. Ahern simply been able to keep his trap shut, there would be no need for dueling displays in Washington's Capitol. The more he and his Christian brethren whine about the government not respecting their delusion, the more secular the holidays become.

Washington State claims that they'll allow anything that is not disruptive, free, and is not seen as endorsement of the position by the state. I do understand this line of reasoning, but I find it lacking. This is a government building, and none of this garbage belongs there.

H/T to Tangled Up in Blue Guy

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