Wednesday, December 18, 2013

David Silverman doesn't mince words

American Atheists erected a billboard in Times Square, and right-wing heads are exploding. (It's a digital billboard. You can watch the whole thing - 15 seconds worth - here.)

New York State Senator Andrew Lanza was one of the wingnuts who hit the ceiling, comparing the billboard to the Holocaust and calling for a boycott of Times Square and the revocation of American Atheists' non-profit status.

But, you know, David Silverman, president of American Atheists, isn't exactly shy, so he used this opportunity to school Lanza in the U.S. Constitution. Enjoy!
State Senator Andrew Lanza:

Your recent press release “denouncing” our “hateful” billboard in Times Square and “calling for the revocation” of American Atheists’ 501(c)(3) nonprofit status leads me to believe that you have little idea what the First Amendment of the Constitution actually protects. Please allow me to educate you.

The First Amendment gives all Americans, irrespective of their beliefs, exactly the same rights. This means we all have the right to express ourselves as long as we don’t infringe on the rights of others. Nobody has more or fewer rights than anyone else. Christianity is not superior to atheism or any other system; Christianity is equal to atheism under the Constitution.

Does our billboard infringe on anyone’s rights to do as they see fit? Can our billboard affect your life if you don’t want it to do so? One could ask the same question about Christian billboards threatening non-Christians with hell.

The answer, of course, is no. Billboards don’t infringe on people’s rights.

You are the one attempting to infringe on others’ rights. You are petitioning, on your official government-hosted website, to suppress our Constitutional right to freedom of speech. This is truly an act that should frighten Americans. Your abuse of your office to attempt to silence a minority group is not only un-American, it is the antithesis of the ideals upon which our nation was founded.

You should be ashamed of yourself, and all New Yorkers should be ashamed to be represented by you. In your press release, you defame the character of the tens of millions of atheists, agnostics, and nontheists by saying, “[I]t is not surprising to me that people who do not believe in God are hateful and malicious.” That is bigotry, plain and simple. You smear the nearly 3 million non-religious New Yorkers with your hate. You are unworthy of the office you hold.

New Yorkers deserve to be governed fairly by someone who understands the value of diversity and the benefits of freedom of speech, not by a theocrat who attacks our most cherished values on a religious whim.

The fact that you are using your religious hatred to try to damage the businesses in New York’s Times Square by calling for a boycott there during the holiday season astounds me. I wonder if you’d call for a boycott of your own home district if there was a billboard you didn’t like erected in Staten Island.

You call our billboard “hate speech.” You say that “there is no room in our society for religious hatred or persecution.” Yet, this critique rings hollow when it comes from a man who voted to enshrine religious persecution in the laws of New York by voting against equality for LGBT New Yorkers.

Our billboard, which points out that Christmas is better without the religious baggage, is not hate speech nor persecution, Senator. Critique is not persecution. Demanding our equality is not an attack on your rights. It is an assertion of ours.

America is not a Christian nation. In the words of President Obama, “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus—and nonbelievers.” Our First Amendment rights are not negotiable, and neither is our place in society. We will continue to assert our rights proudly and defend the right of all Americans to have a government that treats all religions—and all citizens—equally.

Make no mistake: We do not fear you. The more you attempt to silence us, the louder you will hear us rise in opposition to your posturing. You are so damaged by your religion that you can’t obey your own oath to uphold the Constitution when it conflicts with your dogma and pride.

Enjoy our current and future awareness-raising projects. It could not be more clear that you need them.

Great, isn't it? From "please allow me to educate you" to "enjoy our current and future awareness-raising projects... you need them," it's a great smack-down.

Is it "hateful"? No more than "Happy Holidays" is an attack on Christmas. Is it "persecution"? Come on, now. No one is crazy enough to believe that, I hope.

David Silverman is blunt and outspoken, and it feels good to have someone stand up and say these things, without pussyfooting around about it. You've got to love this, don't you?
Make no mistake: We do not fear you. The more you attempt to silence us, the louder you will hear us rise in opposition to your posturing. You are so damaged by your religion that you can’t obey your own oath to uphold the Constitution when it conflicts with your dogma and pride.

And the little things here, like quoting Barack Obama to a right-wing Republican, are just great! Sure, Obama won't like being associated with atheists, but he's a politician. (Don't get me wrong, Obama's specific inclusion of nonbelievers as part of our nation was great. Remember, the first President Bush didn't even think we should be considered citizens!)

David Silverman doesn't mince words. Some people think that he should. Some atheists think that he should. But not me.


Gregg said...

I like The billboard. I've seen a number of atheist bloggers who don't - they think it's too confrontational. I don't see the difference between this and many religious billboards. There's nothing wrong with stating your beliefs.

Great post, Bill

Anthony G Williams said...

I'm not sure that I completely agree, Bill. Strictly speaking, Christians could point out that THEY feel a need for Christ at Christmas, so the poster is inaccurate.

I much prefer the other posters shown, which make a similar point in a more subtle way.

I did enjoy, and entirely agree with, Silverman's put-down of that offensively idiotic senator, though!

WCG said...

Thanks, Gregg.

WCG said...

I, too, prefer the other posters, Tony. (But they're actually from the same electronic billboard, which cycles through all three of them.)

I don't think the first one is inaccurate, because I could argue that people don't need Christ in Christmas, even if they think they do. But I'd prefer the message to be clearer that having Christ in Christmas is optional.

I suppose it's not easy to say everything you want on a billboard, huh? But I really like the second one, which says the same thing in a much subtler fashion.

I don't always like the design of the billboards American Atheists puts up, but I like the fact that they put up billboards occasionally. There are a lot of Christian billboards in America, and the Christian message is everywhere in the news media, too.

So just the fact that these American Atheists billboards get noticed is a real plus. (Ironically, hardly anyone would see them if it weren't for the outrage from Christians. But then, that suits their narrative of a 'war on Christianity,' so I suspect that they're glad to see atheist billboards like this, as long as they don't see too many of them.)