The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging a Georgia courthouse to stop flying a Christian flag.
A very obviously Christian religious flag with a cross on top is prominently on display next to the judge's bench in a Bryan County courtroom. The flag is a traditional Christian design, reportedly conceptualized by Protestants in the early 20th century. The white in the flag is said to represent the biblical notions of purity, the blue is supposed to stand for baptism in water and the red is meant to symbolize the sacrifice that Jesus made for mankind.
The religious significance of the cross and the flag is indisputable, and FFRF urges that the flag be removed immediately.
"An overwhelming majority of federal courts agree that the Latin cross universally represents the Christian religion, and only the Christian religion," FFRF Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell writes to Rebecca Crowe, Bryan County clerk of courts. "And a majority of federal courts have held displays of Latin crosses on public property to be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion."
The cross and the flag display in the Bryan County courthouses unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity, FFRF asserts. Plus, it sends a message to the nearly 30 percent of non-Christians (including the one-fourth of the population that is religiously unaffiliated) that they are not "favored members of the political community," to quote the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Such a blatant endorsement of religion and Christianity has no place in our secular courtrooms," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "The flag needs to be gotten rid of at once."
It sends a theocratic message of intimidation to non-Christians and a message of favoritism to Christians that contradicts the judicial notion of justice for all.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with almost 24,000 nonreligious members across the country, including more than 400 in Georgia and an Atlanta-area chapter.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation and a regional freethinkers' group are decrying the discriminatory denial of services during their protest against a religious theme park.
On June 30, Five Star Septic and Portable Toilet Rentals agreed to send portable toilets to a July 7 demonstration against the Ark Encounter park put on by the Tri-State Freethinkers, a group made up of nonbelievers from Kentucky, southern Ohio and southern Indiana, the area the firm serves. It agreed to deliver the toilets on the morning of July 7.
The company's office reportedly called Tri-State Freethinkers at 9:13 a.m. that day to get directions to the site. During this conversation, it asked the organization representative whether the portable toilets were for the protest. Upon learning that they were, the office denied service, indicating that this was partially because it did not want its name associated with the atheists' protest.
With such short notice, Tri-State Freethinkers very obviously did not have time to make alternative arrangements. Instead, it had to hastily organize a shuttle caravan to a nearby gas station for the nearly 200 attendees needing to use toilets. This entailed a major time expense for volunteer organizers and individuals needing the ride, as well as financial outlay for gas and mileage. For some individuals, the inconvenience caused by the breach of contract meant missing parts of the protest.
Tri-State Freethinkers provided a lot of water for participants. As the day heated up, those in the open sun by the highway were drinking copious quantities. The denial of convenient toilets produced inevitable discomfort. To those affected, the denial of service felt like a punishment for their views.
It is unlawful for legitimate businesses to discriminate on the basis of religion. In addition, Tri-State Freethinkers relied on the promise of Five Star Septic to deliver a service, and it reneged on that promise because of the protesters' reasonable message.
The nonreligious population in this country is the fastest growing segment by religious identification, with fully 23 percent of Americans identifying as nonreligious. Nationally, about 35 percent of millennials—those born after 1981—are nonreligious. That would be a lot of individuals for Five Star Septic to refuse to serve on discriminatory grounds.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with almost 24,000 nonreligious members across the country, including members in Kentucky who were present at the protest. FFRF Co-President Dan Barker also participated.
Ark Encounter entrepreneur and fundamentalist Christian evangelist Ken Ham may have just bet the farm.
He has announced that the $28 children's admission price to his biblical Noah's ark theme park (dinosaurs included!) will be slashed to $1 for any public school student. He will also waive the $40 adult rate for accompanying teachers.
Ham's latest salvo seems to be in direct response to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's caveat, in a mass mailing to more than 1,000 school districts in Kentucky and nearby states, about the Ark Encounter. FFRF contacted public schools to warn that they should not be organizing trips for students to either Ham's Creationist Museum or the new ark park. Ham has fired off roughly a dozen tweets and penned a blog to denounce the organization. None of them cited a single case law.
FFRF noted in its memo that Ham has plainly stated in a recent letter his motivation for building the ark park. "Our motive is to do the King's business until He comes. And that means preaching the gospel and defending the faith, so that we can reach as many souls as we can," he wrote. Public schools and their administrators have a statutory obligation to protect a captive audience of students from proselytizing hucksters seeking to take advantage of youthful credulity.
Ham's latest move underscores FFRF's message in its letter yesterday to Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen L. Pruitt, expressing disappointment with his lackluster memo to Kentucky schools. Pruitt claimed the Kentucky Department of Education isn't responsible for approving specific field trip selections. FFRF reminded Pruitt of a statutory duty to ensure that Kentucky schools and employees abide by all laws.
Ham had previously taken to social media, saying "The [FFRF] have [sic] no right to tell schools what excursions they can and can't do thus violating 1st amendment—that's the schools [sic] decision" and that "public schools can visit [Ark Encounter] for historical/education/recreational reason [sic]."
The ark has been rightly termed a "monument to stupidity." The flood fable teaches both cruelty (creating, then drowning most of the world's inhabitants in a fit of pique) and misinformation. But the absurd tale has been gift-wrapped as a lure for children enticed by the animals.
"Taking public school students to an ark park would be as unconstitutional as taking them to church on a Sunday morning," says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. "In some ways, it is worse because the constitutional issues are compounded by the anti-science, anti-history indoctrination Ham is imposing on visitors."
FFRF will be closely monitoring public schools that are in cahoots with Ham's special brand of snake oil. Our public school children should not be exposed to his fakery.