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  • Atheists Take Offense at 9/11 Memorial for Fallen Firefighters

    Antagonists of religious belief will go to extraordinary lengths to drive out any mention of the spiritual from the public square. A few weeks ago, the streets of Brooklyn were witness to such extreme secularism. There a new commemorative street sign has created a stir among local and national atheist groups, who claim the sign’s reference to “heaven” is offensive and unconstitutional.

    On September 11, 2001, seven firefighters from a Brooklyn firehouse rushed into the World Trade Center after the first tower was hit to help victims of the terrorist attacks, ultimately sacrificing their own lives to save others. Almost 10 years to the day after the seven men died, a street in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, near the men’s fire company, has been ceremonially named “Seven in Heaven Way.”

    As the seven firefighters’ friends, widows, and fellow service members stood at Richards Street a few weeks ago to commemorate the fallen, a group of atheists were insisting that the sign offended their beliefs and violated the First Amendment. New York City Atheists’ president Kenneth Bronstein told reporters, “There should be no signage or displays of religious nature in the public domain,” adding that it was “insulting” to use the word heaven in the street sign. “We’ve concluded as atheists there is no heaven and there’s no hell,” Bronstein explained.

    As common sense and U.S courts have pointed out, however, merely feeling insulted does not a constitutional argument make. For instance, this past spring, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard a case in which the Freedom from Religion Foundation claimed that the President’s annual proclamation of a National Day of Prayer constitutes a government endorsement of religion in violation of the First Amendment. Furthermore, the group argued, the President’s calling citizens to reflection, thanksgiving, and remembrance is deeply offensive to non-believers. The Seventh Circuit held that the atheist organization did not have standing to sue partly because “hurt feelings differ from legal injury.”

    As for the sign constituting a government endorsement of religion, applying the same scrutiny to other publicly named places would necessitate renaming streets, towns, and cities across the country, a multitude of which have religious connotations.

    Secularists’ insistence on eradicating any allusion to religion or religious beliefs from the public sphere distorts the foundational American idea of freedom of—not from—religion. Atheists’ argument in the Brooklyn sign situation, like the National Day of Prayer case and Pledge of Allegiance case, misunderstands the First Amendment’s intent to allow robust religious freedom in the public sphere, not hermetically seal it within the walls of churches, mosques and synagogues. As Heritage’s Jennifer Marshall explains about the American model of religious freedom:

    Far from privatizing religion, it assumes that religious believers and institutions will take active roles in society.… In fact, the American Founders considered religious engagement in shaping the public morality essential to ordered liberty and the success of their experiment in self-government.

    Sadly, the situation in Brooklyn might not end at Richards Street. City leaders who approved the sign are unwilling to remove or change “Seven in Heaven Way,” but Bronstein says he will consider filing a lawsuit against the city on behalf of himself and other atheists who feel insulted.

    Ironically, if the atheists take their case into federal court in Brooklyn, they will be filing suit at an address on Cadman Plaza. The Reverend Doctor Samuel Parkes Cadman, after whom the plaza is named, was a global figure and the first Congregational minister in the United States to air coast-to-coast radio sermons.

    Securing a religiously sterile public square may be a much larger task than atheist groups foresee.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    45 Responses to Atheists Take Offense at 9/11 Memorial for Fallen Firefighters

    1. Donald LeFante says:

      One nation under God with liberty and justice for all. I believe there is an implicit assumption that people behave responsibility. I am tired of being held hostage to the new interpretation of our constitution and our laws. Where are the men in our society?

      • David says:

        "Under God" was to the Pledge of Allegiance added in the 1950s by theists who used the false argument that it would distinguish America from the "goddless Commies". It should never have been added, especially as "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion"* The only "new interpretation" of the constitution is the one that claims the United States is a christian nation and is trying to turn the U.S. into a theocracy.

        You, sir, an an enemy of the Constitution of the United States and a traitor to your country.

        *Treaty of Tripoli of 1796. This was a treaty created by the founders of the United States of America and the authors of the Constitution. Article 6 of the Constitution states "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land".

      • raccman says:

        Not all atheists are in need of therapy ! Some of us respect each and every individual's RIGHT to believe
        as they desire ! Those of us who live to protest anything and everything relating to religion are pathetic, angry people who need to get a life – as well as a hobby !

    2. Justice says:

      "Antagonists of religious belief will go to extraordinary lengths to drive out any mention of the spiritual from the public square. " This falls squarely under the definition of Dimocrats and Liberals!

    3. I'd say damn them to hell buy, hey, they're atheists, what's the point!

    4. Christopher says:

      Well, I don't like Rock and Roll – at all – but, legions do, and I will defend to the death the people's right to enjoy whatever music they choose (however much it annoys me). The only reason these morons fight religion, is because they know the power it has in peoples lives and they fear it.

    5. OhioHistorian says:

      I can help the irreligious; don't read it. I find your protests offensive. Do you know if there were any of the fallen who were athiests? This monument is to honor THEM, and presumably has their families involved. If not, then fie on the bureaucrats who took 10 years and didn't involve the families. This memorial is to honor THEM, not to reflect your view of religion. I will protect your non-worship, and will fight to the death to protect your right to protest and your right to not worship. Cannot you do the same for those of us who wish to recognize this as "one nation, under God"? Are you so afraid that your non-worship is threatened by a sign of heaven that you must protest?

      BTW, when will you protest the Moon and Stars?

    6. Stan says:

      I find it ironic that these guys work so hard against religion, yet are tireless evangelists. Hypocrisy much?

    7. Beverly Golato says:

      What is offensesive is the Atheists who think that have an option here. First the constitution does not say anything about separation of church and state. It says no state shall interfere with a persons beliefs. The whole comcept is bogus made up by non religious people and pro socialists, marxist and communists. Somewhere along the line these selfrightious Atheists were taught right from wrong, it's not something you are born with out of instinct, it is because of the ten commandants the laws were created to keep men from becoming animals. I think Atheists are scared of anything religious because to believe would mean that man is not the greatest thing and there is something more powerful the they are.

    8. Martha H. says:

      I think they should let the people remember the fallen anyway they want to I think the Atheist should leave them alone. I say keep it!!!!!

    9. Elise says:

      Enough of this!

    10. Carole Barnett says:

      I am an atheist, and I hate to see articles like this. I do not wish to take God out of any part of our country's traditions, off of the dollar, out of the boy scout pledge or anything else in this country. I'm proud to say the Pledge of Allegiance just as it was written, and am not offended to see anyone praying in public or anything else that has to do with one's own beliefs. The founding fathers made it clear that they wanted separation of church and state so that the government could not dictate to anyone what they are allowed to believe or disbelieve. These atheist groups do not represent me, and I think what they do represent is a group of very narrow minded people. I also believe that they must be very insecure in their own beliefs to state that they are "insulted'. Religion is rooted deep in the heart of this country. They should all just put on their big girl panties and just deal with it.

    11. Juanita Dominguez says:

      To all atheists: I think it takes much more "faith" to be an atheist than not. By the way, I don't see atheist doing any public service, unless I'm missing something…if there are any atheists that are reading this, please tell me what contributions to society have you and your fellow atheists contributed to? I woul really like to know.

    12. Lynn says:

      Things that I find offensive are things I avoid..atheist can do the same,..avoid anything that shows the love of God and country, the things that recognize the sacrifices made by brave Americans… things you take for granted. You are people who live in America, who do not express love of God and are free to fight any visible signs of appreciation and recognition for those who have fallen in the line of duty. You accept blessings without questions, but deny the source. Sorry " Heaven" is so offensive to you…does "Hell" also offend you?

    13. Susan says:

      Message to atheists – get over yourselves.

    14. Betsy says:

      They allow their ridiculously hurt feelings to obliterate the courage and memory of heroes, who, unlike the atheists, were thinking of someone else. I'm grateful there is precedence and hope it holds sway if they do indeed file a lawsuit. These people (the atheists) obviously have time on their hands. They should consider using their time more judiciously – maybe they could volunteer to help people in need.

    15. Fabio says:

      Funny thing is if they go under oath, they'll need to put their hands on the bible a swear the truth…how would these idiots deal with that? Will they think the'll get the "cuddies" by touching the bible or will they simply lie?

    16. jennifer montague says:

      I am just going to keep it short and simple. The people who say there is no God are fools. (Psalm 14) Leave the street name! Its America. If they want us to respect their beliefs, then they should be kind enough to respect the beliefs of the men who gave their lives for our country. If they believe there is no heaven…well they better be right! My Bible says there is a heaven!

    17. Steve Owen says:

      Frankly I'm insulted that the atheist don't believe in God or Heaven and I'm really offended that they would protest a street being named for our brave firefighters. I'm really getting tired of these people trying to make the rest of us cater to their beliefs just because the say they are offended. I say either get over it or go to some country that was founded on atheism. Our country was founded on religious freedom, freedom of religion not from religion!

    18. Bobbie says:

      As often as it is becoming, it's really building tremendous disappointment of Americans. Looking like land of the pathetic, home of the lost. Past history of the late 20th century, displays many who won't tolerate the truth let alone THEIR OWN perceptions and the pathetic part. they go out of their way to show how hurt their feelings are by making it a federal case! How is America ever going to rebuild her strength when people use time and money to show such weakness of their intolerances?

      How dare atheist be intolerant of a memorial that doesn't include them! UNLESS the word HEAVEN is PHYSICALLY ATTACKING YOU every time you SEE it, GROW UP!!! …we're forced to tolerate you and your game playing.

      Atheist or everyone offended need to understand, Jesus is a man who doesn't preach any religion whatsoever! God doesn't promote any either! What's the beef????? Their both fit for public education the way Jesus taught because he didn't preach religion nor does he teach by force and threats! And the personal freedom and all that entails that Jesus teaches is proven to be worthy of all mankind and is seen throughout mankind.

    19. NJONY says:

      It's time to fight back. We keep backing down every time some aethiest or gay or other group says they are offended. I'm offended at them. So what about my rights. I feel they are being trampled on every day. I'm generally discusted with all this political correctness stuff. Mark Levin said it's time to use their tactics against them and quit being nice. It's time to stand up against the liberal agenda. America was founded on Christian principles and this cannot be denied. If the founders had not based the constitution on christian principles what kind of country would we have today? If people don't like it here they can move to another country that they like better like Russia or Iran.

    20. Mary says:

      I am insulted that the atheists are insulted.

    21. and2therepublic says:

      "[C]an the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?" – Thomas Jefferson – Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18 – 1781.

      Atheists, too, have the God given liberty to profess their religious faith in the public square. And the Constitution guarantees it in the first ammendment.

      re-li-gion ri-lij-en n 4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

    22. gaetano says:

      Sorry for you unbelievers,having so many problems with God and heaven. It's not to late to solve your problems the easy way.All you have to do is repeat after me. i BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER , ALL MIGHTY,CREATER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. Now teach yourself to believe in this, and POOF, your problems will all be gone, and so will your CULT preacher, or what ever you call him.

    23. Gaffel says:

      I think you have misunderstood the religious freedom when you claim it only serves to protect religious people from governmental interference and their freedom to be religious. Why should it not also be freedom from (other peoples) religion? It goes hand in hand. You can't have the freedom to follow your own religion if you at the same time get bombarded with other religious messages. In practice i think it is a utopian idea that everyone gets their freedom, but let's face it: Freedom is an idea, not a reality.

      • Steve S. says:

        You are confusing the words of and from. Freedom from other's religion is simply a PC way of expressing one's (mistaken) right to curtail others' religious freedom.
        "You can't have the freedom to follow your own religion if you at the same time get bombarded with other religious messages" . This is a PC way of saying there's only room for YOUR way of thinking.
        And freedom is only a reality when practiced by the actions of men, which is the point of this discussion, dissenting views and other people,s opinions.

    24. JB Daniel says:

      What is the Atheists problem? They do not believe in God yet they choose to quarrel against all who do believe. Are they fighting the windmill? or their own conscience?
      Dear Non Believers GET A LIFE!

    25. Tim AZ says:

      If these atheists were secure in their belief that heaven and hell do not exist. Why are they so desperate to force their beliefs upon the public in every public setting? This country was founded on religious tolerance so that Americans could publicly express their own religious beliefs. We have never had a don't ask, don't tell policy on religion in America and we certainly aren't going start now. Inalienable rights are not subject to elimination simply because an others sensibilities might be tested. We are not a nation of weak minded individuals lacking the ability to tolerate another. Are we? Had enough yet?

    26. John says:

      Deport the atheists! How can they be honorable American citizens while protesting every little public reference to God or the hereafter that are such important foundations of this country's laws and culture. Let's move them to any where in the Middle East and see if they get away with protesting Allah.

    27. Dan Sanders says:

      Some would say that atheism itself can be considered a religion, according to dictionary definitions. So, if any governmental entity, such as a court of law, would find in favor of the atheists, wouldn't that be just as much a violation of the establishment clause of the first amendment as the action about which they are complaining? And don't forget, the first amendment also guarantees the "free exercise thereof" of religions, no matter if such exercise upsets anyone else or not.

    28. Jeff S says:

      If they do not believe in heaven or hell, why does it offend them?

    29. han57 says:

      Excuse me but let’s just break the 1st down to what it really means. This was written to prevent the gov’t from telling everyone this is your religion, Much like King George did. Does anyone remember the Church of England? Mandated religious practices, the reason the first settlers came here.
      Second, this sign offends you, are you serious? Guess what, you offend me, to think that I spent nearly 10 years of my life in the U.S. Army to defend your imagined right to be offended is to me to say the least sickening. If you do not like peoples right to honor fallen rescue squads too bad. You and you’re cohorts are by and large a minority. Notice I am not at all saying a ethnic or racial minority, just a simple minority. Simple minority because you are well basically simple minded.

    30. Sandra/Texas says:

      It appears atheists are violating the constitutational right to worship. They don't believe in God, and that is their right and I will respect that belief; however, I do believe in God and expect the atheist to respect my belief without interference. I was raised to ignore beliefs that were not mine, but to respect those who believed otherwise. This political correctness has gotten out of hand and civility needs to be restored.

    31. Robert says:

      How can you ne offended by someone that doesn't exist?

    32. Chris says:

      I find it ironic that people who don't believe in God believe so fervently that no religion should be given public display (not sure if that's fully true or only applies to Christianity). You would think they wouldn't really care. But then doesn't atheism rise to a form of religious belief since they believe in it so strongly as to be offended? And if their wishes were to be honored wouldn't that in essence be government support of a specific religion?

    33. dlp3556 says:

      Why can't we have tolerance for one another?

    34. Carlos says:

      I think there is more to these groups. I am an athiest, and I take ZERO offense to religous signs and speech in public squares. Its my stand and others have their own stands. What ever makes people feel good, I'm good with it. This nation's majority are God believing. I take no offense.
      But I do take offense when the state tells people they can't say god but you CAN burn a flag. I personally think there is more happening with these groups.

    35. Anon Atheist says:

      I am an atheist, this implicitly implies that I do not believe, period. It does not mean I have a belief system. I am an atheist because you have not, or will not, prove to me that your god exists(or any other.) This sign is offensive because as an atheist I have to put up with all of you xians(read christians) telling me that I am wrong for not believing in your god. Constantly having to see your religion everywhere, and all of you railing against me because I would love to keep our separation of church and state around. Yes, it is not in the constitution, but you should do some research before you state something. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church… read and understand.

    36. Carmen says:

      Atheists are turning this country into the most difficult place to be. What is wrong with word heaven? These are shallow people who are decided to make it impossible for those who have the right believe in God. People's faith and belief in God is not hurting anybody. This is just pure politics grabbing power and control and everything they can. If you do not like our God go move somewhere else. There are other countries that feel like you do, so that is where you should move to. United States was founded by God believers. We are not going to change it. We are getting stronger. The only way they can take God from our lives is by another holocaust . Are you going to kill us all?

    37. 1MoreThot says:

      Hey, they're atheists. Why should they care what name is used?

    38. Dan Gray says:

      Atheism is an irrational belief, substantively no different than any other theism. In order to remain true to our Constitution's First Amendment, atheists should be allowed to contribute a memorial that they feel is appropriate, however, they have no veto power over other beliefs. If they don't like it and feel offended, too damn bad. It is past time that we follow the First Amendment, and deny atheism the official establishment that has been granted to them by the courts.

    39. justwondering says:

      I've been worried about the existence of Heaven & Hell, but I'm relieved that the mystery is solved. Could anyone from this group please show me the proof of how they came to this "conclusion"?

    40. Caristiona says:

      For the few atheists who seem to be insulted and suffer hurt feelings over the street name honoring those who put their lives out there and tried to save others, the question is: were the atheists there trying to do something for their fellow man or woman? Was it because you lack courage to possibly give your life for others or doing something to assist where you might be injured is unacceptable? We have the right to honor all the fallen as we see fit to do and you have the right to disagree. But being "insulted" really tells an awful lot about you folks.

    41. Frank says:

      Maybe I should sue Bronstein for insulting me by saying my Lord and Savior does not exist and infringing on my freedom of speech to tell people that He does… If you do not like the street name Don't Look at IT!! Or even better, do not go on that street at all in protest… That is your right to Choose, not to continually limit free spech of lawabiding Americans and insulting American Heroes and their families..

    42. R Blackdog says:

      Suppose for a moment that I were an atheist. Then my belief about the human race would be that the underlying motivation is the survival of the fttest gene. Check out the book bt famous atheist Richard Dawkins. In a nutshell it lays the basis for the belief that we are all nothing more than organisms that support the survival of the fittest. So therefore there would be no reason for everybody to just kick the shit out of any idiot we don't agree with, in fact why not just deliberately destroy anyone we see as unfit. Oh oops someone already tried that..Eugenics ring a bell? It is precisely because of our belieffs that we pray for people instead of prey on them. Seriously Atheist what prevents me from blowing you away because I don't like you? Then to each man his own thoughts and we are all on even ground my thoughts of ridding you are the justification for ensuring survival of the fittest gene.

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