Thursday, June 12, 2014

On Picking Our Battles

Since my recent encounter with La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig, a small part of the criticism I've received has come from other atheists.  They've joined some Christians in not understanding how Separation of Church and State works and getting the details of what happened wrong.

A post about it on Atheist Republic is a great example of atheists getting it wrong.  They got numerous small details wrong, including when I approached the mayor.  Their post claims I approached him "in the midst of" the event when I intentionally waited until the event was over.  It's a small detail, but it shows the disregard for accuracy (or perhaps honesty) that permeates that post.

But worse than the lazy writing in this hyperbolic work of click-bait, is the opinion offered by the author at the end of the post:
While I am certainly disturbed by the mayors alleged sentiments, I must in rare form disagree with the atheist activist in question about any alleged violation of separation of church and state here. While the city may have organized the event, they state that it was funded by local church groups who are not part of the government body. Additionally the event was held at a public park which is open to all the public and no one was denied entry as far as we know.
I think we need to pick our battles a bit better than this, because things of this nature give off the appearance of being petty and intentionally confrontational when no confrontation is necessary.
But that's just my two cents.
He starts by acknowledging that the city organized the event.  Nothing said after that is relevant.  Who paid for the event is not relevant.  It was exclusively and explicitly Christian, and it was part of the official La Vista event called La Vista Daze.  No effort was made to even consider anything else.  When we asked the city about it, they admitted that it had never occurred to them.    Of course the city states they didn't do anything wrong.  That's what they would be doing either way.  But one thing is key and undeniable.

The city organized the event.

The fact that it was on public property is not at all relevant.  The Constitutional issue would still be there if it had happened exactly as it did on private property.  And there would be no issue if it had been the churches having the event on their own in the same location.  The location isn't the issue.  The issue is the fact that the city organized the event.

Regarding picking our battles, the author reveals even more of his ignorance of the situation.  Ignorance that would have been avoided if he'd done 2 cents worth of research before posting.

He clearly never found my initial post on the matter, where he could have learned that I wasn't looking for a battle at all.  I attempted a civil discussion.  It only blew up because of the mayor's reaction.

He may also have learned that the response from Omaha Atheists was to use the attention educate and to reach out to believers in the community to open dialogue between our groups.

I've since had the meeting with the mayor that I was seeking that day, where he apologized in person for his outburst.  The city appears like they will be taking my concerns seriously, which at this point is all I was asking for.

I also spoke to the city council and have offered to participate in the planning of future events to help ensure inclusiveness by representing a group not currently considered.  After I spoke, the preacher who organized the event in question spoke, praising Omaha Atheists for our civility and willingness to work together.

He did get one thing right though.  No confrontation was necessary.  Other than the outburst that made news, that we've since moved beyond, no confrontation has been necessary.  So far, all parties are working together civilly.

So, who has "the appearance of being petty and intentionally confrontational when no confrontation is necessary"?  The group who is working toward a litigation free resolution to a legitimate issue or the blogger who picked a fight with a fellow atheist by writing an ill-informed, hyperbolic, and dishonest piece to get some extra hits?

If this writer at Atheist Republic gives a shit about honesty, I suggest he pick his battles better than this.


  1. Hi,
    I am the concerned author of the article in question on Atheist Republic. Firstly, I am not a "he", I am a "she". If you had gone through the profile of the author before ranting on your blog about her lack of skills in news reporting, you would have known better. Secondly, the author is not the same as the commentator so you should have ideally made clear that difference in your rant here. Thirdly, I cannot believe you managed to take offence to what I reported because ironically enough, I was writing in your favour.

    Now to clarify:

    My post does not say you approached the mayor in the midst of the event. It says and I quote because you seem to be misrepresenting the facts here: "Tensions that stemmed from La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig’s alleged comments to an atheist activist in the midst of a Memorial Day service led to a political storm and protests on June 2nd." In case, it is still not clear, this statement means that the disturbing comments by the mayor were passed in the midst of the event. It does not imply that you confronted the mayor while the event was being conducted. You seem to be really insecure about your involvement in this case, perhaps why you thought Atheist Republic was attacking you instead of supporting you.

    Now my question to you is, what was your problem with the memorial day event if it wasn't the violation of the separation of church and state, as referred to in several other articles, apart from ours:

    Finally, even though I should probably leave it to Casper to respond to your intolerant rant, in his defense, I think, you as a secular person must learn to respect other people's opinions before demanding the same on a much larger platform in public space. While I do not doubt that you make many atheists happy, it is alright if a few seem to disagree with you from time to time. That is my personal opinion and if you disagree with it, you will see how graciously I agree to disagree with you. Having said that, I know Casper as a very coherent thinker and comprehensible writer so I doubt he was trying to be vindictive in sharing his opinions at the end of my article. However, unfortunately for you, the way you have reacted leaves absolutely no room for doubt that you were trying to be nasty to him, me and more importantly Atheist Republic, which set out to do nothing but support you and other atheists.

    1. I'll start by apologizing for the use of the incorrect pronoun and confusing the author of the main piece for the author of the attached opinion.

      Regarding your defense of your use of "in the midst of", you still miss the point. The comments from the mayor that got the attention were not during the event. They were AFTER the event was over, in response to my request to discuss the matter. So, your article does indeed imply that I approached the mayor during the event.

      The fact that you don't get that only serves to illustrate my point about how little effort you put into knowing what you were talking about.

      I don't think Atheist Republic was attacking me. I think Atheist Republican was lazy and ignorant in your reporting of, and commentary on the issue.

      Regarding the Separation of Church and State, I covered that in the original post and in this one. Neither of the articles you referenced (including the Blaze of all places) claimed that there was no violation.

      I'm fine with being disagreed with. Disagreement is how we improve ourselves and our ideas. I often actively seek out people who disagree with me for that very purpose.

      That's not my issue with your article. My issue with your article is that it was lazily researched and dishonestly hyperbolic. My issue with Casper's opinion is not that it disagreed with me. My problem with Casper's opnion is that it is not based in fact but on inaccurate information. My problem with Casper's opinion is that it's as misinformed as the comments section of that article on the Blaze.

      I have no intention of being nasty, and I've done no such thing. But I also have no intention of letting dishonesty & ignorance stand unchallenged. If you see that as an attack on you, that says more about you than it does me.

  2. Let's speak on integrity for a minute sir. While I would love to see a full separation of church and state, the constitution only prohibits the establishment of a religion by our federal government. It does not prohibit the churches involvement in state run affairs or their sponsorship of events organized by a state body. It is disingenuous to say that there is a constitutional issue to be addressed here because the establishment clause in no way guarantees secularism at the state level. The constitution governs our federal government, but as a democratic republic each state has the obligation to provide separate governance at a state level which is why each state has their own constitution as well. So the issues I mention of funding of an event, it's location, and it's inclusiveness are all pertinent factors here because we are dealing with a state issue rather than a federal one. If even one penny of federal funds was used then your case would be valid, but as I've seen this is not the case.

    I understand your wanting a more inclusive atmosphere that is inviting to the secular community and you have every right to champion for that. But when you prop this up as being a constitutional issue you are overreaching. The only thing our constitution says in regards to this is, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." This constitutional mandate has not been violated.

    When you do this, you make all cases where this mandate is being violated look petty as well. In my state of Tennessee our state constitution forbids anyone from running for public office who does not believe in god. This is a direct violation of the federal constitution, but put on par with a church sponsored Memorial Day picnic it gives an opportunity to say it's all just nitpicking. When I say we should pick our battles it doesn't just mean WHAT we fight for but that we do it correctly. You have a legitimate issue, but you're trumping it up to be something it's not and in the end this casts a poor light on other legitimate issues.

    Some people believe that winning is all that matters, but I believe that HOW we win is far more important than winning itself. If we can't do it with integrity then we haven't actually won anything.

    1. No, the Constitution does not only prevent establishment of a religion by the federal government. The Fourteenth Amendment, which has been law nearly 150 years, has long since made the Constitution apply across the board. Maybe try learning what you're talking about before getting all preachy and condescending.

      I have no interest in getting a lesson on integrity from someone associated with such a dishonest and hyperbolic piece, whose author appears to have no interest in correcting the multiple of errors within it. Especially when you clearly have no idea how I actually have gone about addressing this issue.

      But why would you know anything about it? You've both been very uninformed on the issue since the start, despite having the information right in front of you.

      I hope this is not representative of Atheist Republic as a whole. It would be a shame for a voice that big to be that damaging.

    2. Damnit man, here's the fourteenth in it's entirety:


      SECTION 1.

      All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

      SECTION 2.

      Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

      SECTION 3.

      No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

      SECTION 4.

      The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

      SECTION 5.

      The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article."

      Now show me what part of this was violated? No wait, you fucking can't because no part of it was. Show me legal precedent where this has been established in a decision by SCOTUS. Again, you can't.

      You can be as big of a jackass as you want about this, but I know the law and the US constitution well. If you had honestly not wanted any confrontation in this matter you would have never said a word on the matter to the mayor at the event either during OR after. You should have called his office and scheduled a meeting like any person with a sense of decorum would. But you wanted to make a scene and now you're paying the price for showing your ass in public. There are ways to go about these things and you sir chose the wrong one.

    3. If you were as well versed in the issue as you claim, you wouldn't have to ask. Maybe this is yet another case of you not reading things before declaring yourself an expert on them, since the key sentence is the second one of the Amendment. Regarding which court cases, again, you'd know this if you were the expert you claim to be.

      I see this as still more evidence that you have no idea what you're talking about. Lucky for me, I have access to legitimate legal experts. Not that I'll need them, which brings us to another area of you not knowing what you're talking about.

      You've declared that I "wanted to make a scene". I approached the man civilly, asking to have a civil discussion. That's the exact opposite of attempting to make a scene. The one who made a scene was the mayor. You'd know this if you had bothered to know what you were talking about.

      What price am I supposedly paying for what happened? My organization has grown because of it, and we have used it to further our educational purpose including creating friendly relationships with multiple local clergy. Something you'd know if you had done 5 seconds of research.

      I got the meeting I had initially wanted, and it's looking like positive change will result. This is something you would know if you had bothered to even read the post you're commenting on.

      So far, the worst I've faced has been ignorant people on the Internet attempting to pick fights with me while only making themselves look foolish. I can live with that. While like yourself were busy going unarmed into fights over facts, I was out there getting shit done. And in a more positive way than you continue to attempt dishonestly portray it.

      I find myself back at the last line of this blog post, which I doubt you read since it was all the way at the end of the post. You should pick your battles better.

    4. Apparently you either can't read or have no comprehsion skills. There was no law established. There was no infringement of liberty or freedoms. But what would I know? My family aunt has only worked as a legal assistant to the governor of Tennessee for over 35 years. I suppose that law degree was useless for her and the many years I've spent studying constitutional law collegiately has just been for naught.

      I'm glad your organization is doing well, but I find it a shame that they have you involved with them because it's quite obvious that you're more concerned with making a point than the actual truth. With such a lack of integrity you'll likely be in dire need of that legal team of yours soon enough.

    5. The Constitution is law. On this issue, the rest is case law. If you had the expertise you claim, you'd know this. And if you'd been paying attention rather than blindly lashing out, you'd see that no where have I claimed that it's a fully settled issue. But the idea that there is zero issue is a laughably absurd.

      As absurd as your accusations about my behavior on the issue. You've had plenty of time to do the 5 seconds of research it would take for you to figure out how wrong you are with that.

      Again, I am not at all threatened by a challenge to my integrity from someone who has been defending dishonesty and has been consistently wrong about even the most basic facts.

      And the organization will do just fine. Maybe the kind of behavior you've exhibited is fine over at Atheist Republic, but the leadership & membership of Omaha Atheists have the good sense to not tolerate someone representing them with such dishonesty.