Once again, a local government opens up public spaces to be used for any message the public wants, not just Christians promoting a sectarian Christmas message, and atheists end up outnumbering Christians. This time it's Santa Monica and, as before, Christians are complaining that when the rules are fair to everyone, they can't find a way to completely dominate the discussion and geography. Boo Hoo.
Santa Monica city officials created a lottery to distribute use of 21 spots; atheists won the ability to use 18 of them and a Jewish group got one of them. For six decades Christians got to erect 14 separate displays to promote their Christian message with a nativity story while everyone else was excluded. Now Christians have to compete and be treated like everyone else and they aren't the least bit happy.
[Hunter Jameson, chairman of the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee] said he intends to keep the Nativity tradition many have enjoyed since 1953 from being displaced. Palisades Park, he said, is the "historic home where it really belongs."
"Their goal is getting rid of us, and squelching our 1st Amendment rights," said Jameson, 65, who no longer lives in Santa Monica but still worships at Lighthouse Church of Santa Monica. ...
The Rev. Keith Magee, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, said the atheists have deprived a coalition of Christian faiths (Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic and others) and the community (doctors, real estate agents and the Santa Monica Police Assn. are among the sponsors) of a tradition that allowed so many to come together to celebrate a belief so important to them.
Source: LA Times
So, when Hunter Jameson and his fellow Christians dominated the public area for six decades, does that mean that he and his fellow Christians were getting rid of non-Christians and squelching their 1st Amendment rights? And he freely admits to being part of this long-running conspiracy?
No, I doubt it. I doubt that he's even stopped to consider the implications of his statement at all. It's only "squelching 1st Amendment rights" when Christians are prevented from dominating discussion; it's not "squelching 1st Amendment Rights" when non-Christians are prevented from even having a place at the table. That's going well beyond a double standard, but some Christians -- like Hunter Jameson, it seems -- lack the ability to recognize the moral implications of their own behavior.
Keith Magee is no better. The only "coming together" that he expresses concern about is Christians coming together to collectively dominate public spaces and public discussion. The only "coming together" that he expresses concern about is that which excludes non-Christians. And so atheists should feel ashamed for interfering with that? Atheists should feel bad that they are making that harder?
I don't think so...
Patrick Elliott, a lawyer for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said tradition is no excuse for violating the boundaries between church and state. "Just because they're long-standing doesn't mean they're right," he said.
Indeed, Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said December is a busy time for the organization's attorneys, who challenge the use of public spaces for religious messages.
"It's littering -- literally, littering -- these spaces," Gaylor said of such displays, which she said are a "territorial attempt by Christians to impose their beliefs in this season."
"That creates an atmosphere of intimidation," said Gaylor, who noted that the organization's banner was destroyed by vandals after being hung in Palisades Park. "Christians are the insiders, and everyone else is an outsider."
Patrick Elliott responds above to an argument that we see an awful lot: "It's our tradition!" Could there possibly be a worse argument? If a person using that argument has thought about the issue and has any relevant knowledge, then they know that it's a worthless argument from a legal perspective -- so if they are using it, it's because they have nothing better and know that their position is wrong.
Otherwise, they must not have thought about the issue much at all and/or have no relevant knowledge about the issues involved. Frankly, I think this latter situation is probably more common. Some probably are informed and know they have no sound arguments to use, so they are just reaching for whatever is most likely to resonate emotionally with voters. Most, though, are just incredibly ignorant and don't have any idea what they are talking about.
And quite often, they are the ones holding political office.