Those who support separation of church and state often find themselves on the receiving end of threats when proponents lose their court battles. A story in Alternet discusses what one might expect for someone testifying against the mob, or a gang, but instead, happens when people file lawsuits against laws and displays that force religion down people’s throats.
According to the Alternet piece, members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation began receiving threats on social media after filing lawsuits against two separate schools because of their display of the Ten Commandments. They requested anonymity for the plaintiffs in the case because of the threats, which the judge granted after reviewing said threats. In response, Pennsylvania State Representative Tim Krieger (R) filed a bill that would eliminate plaintiff’s ability to remain anonymous in these cases.
Krieger said, according to WTAE:
“Religious expression in public places has been part of our nation and Pennsylvania for generations, from the founding of the Commonwealth by William Penn and onward to modern times. Passage of House Bill 922 would guarantee that no individual or organization will be able to use our state courts as a weapon to attack the right of Pennsylvania citizens to display religious symbols in public places while hiding in the shadows.”
That’s an understandable sentiment when there’s no reason for someone filing such a suit to fear for their safety. However, when religious fanatics decide to harass, intimidate, threaten, and harm people for trying to ensure their own rights aren’t trampled, then anonymity is as necessary as it was from the mob. Fortunately for the plaintiffs in the FFRF cases, the suits were filed in federal court, where a law like this would have no power. The FFRF rightly feels that displaying religious tenets at public schools sends a message that the government endorses a particular religion; in this case, Christianity. Such displays have nothing to do with the free exercise of one’s religion. It would be a different story if people were suing because someone has a cross displayed in their living room window.
Alternet goes on to discuss a 2004 incident involving a Wiccan woman who was told that she “wasn’t wanted” and should leave town, after she refused to stand up for the traditional Christian prayer that opened town council meetings. When she sued, and won, someone broke into her home and killed her pet parrot, and left a note attached to the body of the parrot that read, “You’re next!”
That wasn’t the only attack. In a series of attacks, several of her cats were also killed and one of her dogs was beaten. The town’s officials said they didn’t condone the attacks, and that police were investigating.
But this even happens between Christians. Alternet also mentions a case from way back in 1981. An Oklahoma woman was beaten, and her family’s home burned to the ground, because she sued her son’s school district after they allowed the Son Shine Club, a Baptist group, to meet in the school building before classes in the mornings. Non-believers had to wait outside the building, even if the weather was bad. Joanne Bell was Christian, but of a different denomination, and didn’t want her son listening to Baptist teachings at school.
Worse than that, though, was the school superintendent’s statement that the Bells “created their own hell on earth.”
Alternet’s piece ends with the stories of two families who were driven out of their communities after filing such lawsuits. And the saddest thing of all is that these people call themselves Christian, which is supposed to be about love and tolerance. This is hate. Pure, clear, hate, and these crimes are hate crimes.
The First Amendment, like the rest of our rights, is not intended to be without restriction. Hate crimes, for instance, don’t fall under freedom of speech or expression. Neither is yelling “Fire” in a crowded area considered protected speech. Displaying the Ten Commandments at a public school doesn’t, or shouldn’t, fall under necessary religious conduct that the government needs to stay out of. Neither is praying at a town hall meeting. At issue for many on the religious right is the ability to freely and openly express their beliefs. There is a time and a place for that, and town hall meetings and public schools don’t qualify.
There seems to be nothing that these people won’t do in order to intimidate and frighten people who don’t want Christianity shoved down their throats. To be sure, there are a great many Christians here who wouldn’t behave in this manner. This is limited, pretty much, to the rabid, right wing fundamentalists of the type who think that the Founders meant for us to be a Christian nation.
Here’s a report via the Christian Atheist: