By Chris Leavenworth
Religiously charged residents of Pensacola fantasize about persecution as enduring atheists and humanists continue to identify and address unconstitutional practices and traditions upheld by local government.
This past Monday, Judge Roger Vinson, with the District Court for the Northern District of Florida, ruled against a 34-foot, 70-year-old cross that stands in the middle of a public park in Pensacola. The cross, a glaring violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, was ruled unconstitutional and ordered to be removed within thirty days. The plaintiff, American Humanist Association (AHA), sued the city for $1.
Church leaders and parishioners, and many members of their congregations, are really upset about not being able to impose a religious monument of their own preference on everyone else on city property. Pensacola’s mayor, Ashton Hayward, spent $80,000 in city funds defending the cross that was ruled unconstitutional by a Christian judge.
A post on Facebook by a man named Lou Cobb, whose profile says he’s retired from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, went viral Wednesday. The post was about the AHA attorney, Monica Miller, and had a screenshot of her with her contact information on the AHA website. It reads, “Here is the idiot attorney that fought for removal of cross in Pensacola. Let’s make her famous and run her out of town!”
The post was shared by over 10,000 people, and countless comments demonstrate how quickly some Christians are willing to be downright vile to another human being when they are unable to get what they want.
The whole ordeal began in 2015 when David Suhor, Pensacola resident and co-founder of the Satanic Temple: West Florida Chapter (TSTWF), made multiple attempts to speak with Brian Cooper, Director for Parks and Recreations of Pensacola, about the cross in Bayview Park.
Cooper declined to meet with Suhor after repeated requests to discuss the issue privately—an effort by Suhor to avoid a public uproar or a legal battle. Suhor’s emails and correspondence with the city—along with a timeline of events and documents leading up to the involvement of Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), AHA, and then the lawsuit—are all archived and can be read on his blog.
In July of last year, Suhor delivered the opening invocation for a city council meeting in Pensacola. Dressed in a black robe and hood, he waited for three minutes as a crowd of protesters and local parishioners feverishly chanted the Lord’s Prayer and shouted sentiments of outrage with lifted hands. Authorities escorted many of the protesters out of the chamber, but several stayed and continued to disrupt the invocation. Suhor performed a resounding a capella—a lyrical plea for compassion, rationality and skepticism—to the visible dismay of almost every person at the meeting.
TSTWF doesn’t truly worship or pay homage to the biblical devil. They don’t believe in any of it. As a community of free thinking activists, they demonstrate the darker side of what freedom to exercise one’s religion means when state or city municipalities provide a platform to practice it.
Brian Spencer, president of the city council, has since changed the invocation policy to allow only individual council members or their chosen representatives to deliver the opening invocation for council meetings.
The inability to accept that a religious belief will be removed from a public pedestal it once was placed and protected upon reveals a profound insecurity in one’s own faith. The only thing that would outrage these religious fanatics more would be a monumental symbol of some other deity.
Because many believers associate success, popularity and power with truth, if they’re professing it, they need their faith to dominate. Anything less is a threat to their whole worldview and to the very real benefits derived out of favoritism for the club they’re in. It’s like their faith is smaller than a mustard seed.
Jesus said, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” The United States Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” It seems the ones who have trouble interpreting their own book suffer equal difficulty with the First Amendment.
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