Religion vs. Atheism in the Public Square

The atheists are at it again.  The Daily Caller describes this situation in Warren, MI.

It seems that the city has allowed a Nativity scene to be displayed, as it has done for a number of years, in the City Hall lobby.  This offends the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a local associate, complainant Douglas Marshall.  Marshall wants to place his own sign next to the Nativity to balance the display.

City Mayor Jim Fouts appears to have a clear understanding of the issue at hand, though.  In response to last year’s letter to Fouts, in which Marshall also objected to the Nativity, the mayor stated that the city was not at all endorsing any religion; on the contrary, all religions were free to have their displays present:

Your objections focus on freedom of religion guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and that the nativity scene somehow was a violation of that constitutional right because [it] favors one religion over another. I vehemently disagree with your objection[.]  The city of Warren in no way whatsoever shows any favoritism to any religion. All religions are welcome to celebrate their religious seasons with a display in city hall[.]

Indeed, the 1st Amendment says this about the government’s role vis-à-vis religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

Eliding the reference to Congress, notice carefully that the clause discusses religion, and only religion; it makes no mention of atheism.  By Marshall’s own statement (see below), his view, and by extension atheism generally, is not a religion, and so his complaint is outside the scope of the Constitution: he has no constitutionally protected freedom of religion right to present his atheism in the public square (he certainly does have a freedom of speech right to do so, but this he seems not to assert).

This is, to some extent though, a sophistry.  Readers of my blog know that I’m as in favor of the free competition of ideas as I am of the free competition of a market place.  This is the sign that Marshall wishes to place next to the Nativity:

At this season of the Winter Solstice, let reason prevail.  There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.  There is only our natural world.  Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.


Let him put up his sign.  Let the free competition of ideas play out.  The good people of Warren will see the right of this.

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  1. Pingback: Score One for the Other Part of the 1st Amendment | A Plebe's Site

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