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Atheists Can’t Use Public Space Because, Apparently, They Are as Bad as the KKK

Atheists Can’t Use Public Space Because, Apparently, They Are as Bad as the KKK

It’s something that people who identify as atheist or agnostic know very well. It’s that feeling you get when you see Christmas lights at the post office or when someone puts up an “Easter tree” (think Christmas tree, but with Easter eggs) at the office. (True story, by the way.) These things don’t necessarily get in the way of anything in your day-to-day, but there is the assumption that not only does everyone believe in a god, but that everyone believes in a particular god. It’s just another thing you can’t avoid that tells you you’re definitely the weirdo around here.

When you look at it from this point of view, it’s easy to see why atheist and resident of Warren, Mich., Douglas Marshall was annoyed when he saw a “Prayer Station” set up smack in the middle of the Warren City Hall.

According to the ACLU, the “Prayer Station” has been located in City Hall since 2009. It’s staffed by volunteers from a local church who invite passers-by to pray with them or come to their church. They are able to do so because of a city policy that allows residents and civil organizations to reserve space in the City Hall atrium.

Nothing wrong so far, right? The point of public spaces like this is that lots of different kinds of speech can coexist. So that’s exactly what Marshall tried to do. He encountered some…resistance…from Mayor Jim Fouts:

Douglas Marshall, an atheist, often passed the Prayer Station and decided to set up a similar “Reason Station” to offer information on atheism and free thought. But when he submitted an application, the mayor refused to accept it. He told Marshall that he would allow any religious group to use the atrium, but not Marshall, who he claimed was “anti-religion” and trying “to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms.”

Man, so many misconceptions. I guess the mayor is afraid a “Reason Station” will somehow annihilate the “Prayer Station.” Don’t shake the mayor’s hand, atheist! He’ll burst into flames!

Just to be clear, Marshall didn’t ask that the “Prayer Station” to be taken down. He just wanted to also put up a “Reason Station.” This is only threatening if you consider the existence of people who believe something different from you to be threatening.

So this is bad and a completely unjustified response to a reasonable request. But, if you can believe it, it gets worse.

The ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Freedom From Religion Foundation have filed a lawsuit on Marshall’s behalf. Mayor Fouts, however, is not backing down. According to the Detroit Free Press:

Fouts said the lawsuit is “another continuing saga by a group of people who, in my opinion, promote conflict rather than resolution and understanding.” He said the group just wants to be there to oppose the prayer station and “as far as I am concerned, that’s not appropriate.”

Because everyone knows that fostering understanding between Christians and atheists only happens when the two groups are not allowed near each other, ever. Also, did you know that atheists are basically just like the KKK and Nazis? Because Fouts thinks so:

“The city has certain values that I don’t believe are in general agreement with having an atheist station, nor in general agreement with having a Nazi station or Ku Klux Klan station,” Fouts said. “I cannot accept or will not allow a group that is disparaging of another group to have a station here.”

I guess Godwin’s Law is in effect in real life now. In fairness, Fouts walked back the Nazi comment. Gee, thanks. It’s nice to know that you don’t actually think atheists are out to kill millions of people. What can I do to thank you?

Here’s what I don’t understand about reactions like this. This isn’t an attack on anyone’s freedom of religion. Marshall didn’t demand that the “Prayer Station” be taken down and a “Reason Station” be put in its place. How fragile does Mayor Fouts think organized religion is?

In fact, when you look at it from that point of view, this reaction actually fits in pretty well with other discriminatory practices. Anti-miscegenation laws focused primarily on keeping the white race pure, as if any outside DNA suddenly made white people into animals. Anti-marriage equality people say they need to protect marriage from the scourge of loving gay couples because it is somehow devalued if it’s not kept strictly hetero. Demanding the same rights as the majority is seen as an attack on that majority, when in reality that could not be further from the truth.

I don’t in any way mean to compare the injustices perpetrated on racial and sexual minorities to those faced by 21st century atheists. Really, we have it pretty good. But this instinct of the majority to circle their wagons seems to be a common thread.

The mistake is thinking that atheists necessarily want religion to be eradicated. I don’t think that’s necessarily true (although surely is for some). Sure, it would be nice if we could base decisions on rationality and reason, but as long as you don’t use your religion to limit what others can do with their lives, we’re not going to have a problem. The problem comes when you start using your social power to give your assumptions about people the force of law. It reinforces tired stereotypes and ultimately makes it harder to get to a point of mutual respect and understanding. It’s hard to empathize with someone if you never hear their side of things. Seeing as though we live in a country where the only religious group disliked more than atheists is Muslims, we could use a little more empathy.

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224 comments

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9:02PM PDT on Aug 18, 2014

Thanks

6:22AM PDT on Aug 8, 2014

Earlier I remarked that American Agnostics and Atheists were disporportionally more intellegent, academic, erudite, and more knowledgeable of all religions.

This may B due to the hegemony of Christian culture. If people were in hegemony of atheism or agnostic culture, then the skew of Christians, and other religions (more intellegent, academic, erudite, and more knowledgeable of all religions). To choose to go against the culture requires more.
I'm an (joke: a G. D.) atheist, former SDA.

12:58AM PDT on Aug 8, 2014

NOW, Steven, there are lots of christians in the orient, but it's a risky biz living between muslims.

"Jihadists who took over large areas of northern Iraq Thursday have forced 100,000 Christians to flee and occupied churches, removing crosses and destroying manuscripts, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako said.

"There are 100,000 displaced Christians who have fled with nothing but their clothes, some of them on foot, to reach the Kurdistan region," he told Agence France Presse.

"This is a humanitarian disaster. The churches are occupied, their crosses were taken down," said Sako, the leader of Iraq's largest Christian denomination, which is aligned with the Roman Catholic Church.

He added that up to 1,500 manuscripts were burnt.
That is why I would NEVER believe in any god, because he/ she, if existent, is a monster.

2:55PM PDT on Aug 5, 2014

While I am not an ATHEIST, I find organized religion to be one of the biggest problems facing the world today...A lot of so called Christians, condemn anyone whose beliefs are not identical to their own, to eternal damnation!!! Why is that???
Another problem is, that if you live in the Orient, the chances of your believing in a CHRISTIAN God, rather than Allah, are rather small, so why is the Occidental version of God so much "''BETTER"???...and last but certainly not least, if Mayor Fouts' is such a devout Christian, why is he so afraid of allowing the Atheists their Station of Reason???

11:51AM PDT on Aug 5, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

8:16PM PDT on Aug 4, 2014

Pamela T.

I don't necessarily agree with all of your position but I do agree with a large part of what you said here. I have also noticed that you write valid comments that I have seen on other threads.

Could I ask you a favor though?

Could you please type your message here on Care2 without capitalizing every letter of every word. I understand how capitalizing a word here and there for emphasis can make a point and I've done it myself as well as having seen others do it. But capitalizing every word?

It looks like you are yelling an angry message at everybody,
even those people who might agree with you.

And this causes some people to disagree with you simply because you
seem to be yelling at all of us.

It is just kind of offensive looking.

Does my comnent make sense to you?

2:44PM PDT on Aug 4, 2014

I AM NOT AN ATHEIST. HOWEVER, THIS IS GOING TOO FAR. PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE RELIGION TO BE DECENT. I AM SURE OF THIS. PEOPLE CAN BE TAUGHT MORALS BY THEIR FAMILY AND LIFE TEACHERS, WE DO NOT NEED TO KYA RELIGION OR RELIGIOUS GROUPS....I WAS RAISED IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH...MY GRANDMOTHER WAS A VERY GOOD CHRISTIAN WOMAN....SHE TAUGHT ME BETTER THAN THE CHURCH TEACHES THEIR SO CALLED CHRISTIANS. THERE ARE CHRISTIAN WOMEN I KNOW THAT THINK THEY HAVE THEIR SEATS UP THERE WITH GOD ALREADY DEFINED. THEY ARE RUDE WOMEN...THEY ARE ARROGANT WOMEN...THEY ARE LYING WOMEN...THEY ARE EVIL. I AM SORRY...I AM NOT FOR ATHEISTS OR RELIGIOUS PEOPLE. I AM SURE THAT WE WILL ALL MEET IN HEAVEN DUST TO DUST AND NOT KNOW EACH OTHER BECAUSE WE WILL BE NOTHING BUT MATTER. I BELIEVE OUR LIFE WILL PASS BEFORE US AS WE DIE AND THAT WILL BE IT. AND I HOPE ALL RELIGIOUS PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY HAVE A SEAT GUARANTEED FOR THEM IN HEAVEN LEARN BEFORE THEY DIE THAT THERE IS A HEAVEN AND WHEN WE DIE WE DIE....THAT IS IT. SO BACK OFF ME ALSO AS I AM NEITHER AN ATHEIST WHO AGGRAVATE ME WITH THEIR ARROGANCE AND I AM A CHRISTIAN SPIRITUAL WOMAN WHO DOES NOT PLAY WITH THE SPIRIT WORLD. I BELIEVE THE SPIRIT WORLD IS BEYOND EVEN CHRISTIANS OR ANY OTHER RELIGIONS REACH.

1:31PM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

thanks

9:42AM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

Thanks

6:16PM PDT on Aug 2, 2014

noted

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