Dispatches from the Creation Wars

More Mistreatment of Atheists

My old friend Troy Britain sent me a link to this page, which features video of a CNN story with Paula Zahn about an atheist family who was hounded out of a town in Mississippi after complaining about their local public school using class time for prayer and Bible reading. Read the transcript here (scroll to the bottom). Zahn had 3 people on to discuss the report and couldn’t have done worse in picking them – Stephen A. Smith, the ESPN loudmouth who yells for no reason about everything and rarely makes any sense; Debbie Schlussel, an Ann Coulter wannabe who is actually more absurd than Ann, which I never thought possible; and Karen Hunter, a journalism professor who actually sounded worse than Schlussel. You know it’s a bad group when Stephen A. Smith is the voice of reason in the bunch. I’ll post some of the transcript below the fold.

ZAHN: And welcome back. We’re talking about whether there’s widespread discrimination against atheists, folks who don’t believe in God. Let’s check out with our out in the open panel now. Stephen Smith, Debbie Schlussel and Karen Hunter. Hey Debbie, it took me 10 times to say your name right. (INAUDIBLE) So do you think atheists should keep their religious beliefs secret? What’s their beliefs period?

HUNTER: What does an atheist believe? Nothing. I think this is such a ridiculous story. Are we not going to take “In God We Trust” off of our dollars? Are we going to not say “one nation under God?” When does it end? We took prayer out of schools. What more do they want?

ZAHN: Are any of you going to defend them here tonight?

SCHLUSSEL: No, I agree with her 100 percent. I think that the real discrimination is atheists against Americans who are religious. Listen, we are a Christian nation. I’m not a Christian. I’m Jewish, but I recognize we’re a Christian country and freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion. And the problem is that, you have these atheists selectively I believe attacking Christianity. You had a case in California where school children were forced to dress as Muslims and learn from the Koran. In Michigan they’re saying high school (INAUDIBLE) in high school where they say Muslim prayers at the football games, public high school, (INAUDIBLE) in high school. You don’t see atheists complaining about that. I really believe that they are the ones who are the intolerant ones against Christians.

ZAHN: What happened to love thy neighbor, the idea that we should be able to practice free speech?

SMITH: That’s nonexistent. We all know that. We talk about that in America, but that’s pretty much nonexistent, especially in the red states, particularly in the south. That’s where the atheists are having the most trouble. When they talk about violent acts that have been enacted them or (INAUDIBLE) exacted against them or what have you. That’s the kind of area they’re talking about. I think in New York City, I don’t think people care too much about it. We’re a Christian country. There’s no question about that. I love the Lord. So does Karen, so does everybody that I know. But the reality is that you’re entitled to believe what you want as long as you’re not imposing your beliefs on other people.

ZAHN: Is that what you think they’re really doing?

HUNTER: They don’t have a good – marketing. If they had hallmark cards, maybe they wouldn’t feel so left out. We have Christmas cards. We have Kwanza cards now. Maybe they need to get some atheist cards and get that whole ball rolling so more people can get involved with what they’re doing. I think they need to shut up and let people do what they do. No, I think they need to shut up about it.

SMITH: I don’t think they need to shut up. The reason why I don’t think they need to shut up is because there’s a whole bunch of people in this world that we can look at and say they need to shut up and they certainly don’t. You got everybody fighting for their own individual cause. This is their cause. We might not like it. I don’t agree with it at all, but they do have a right.

HUNTER: I think they need to shut up about crying wolf all the time and saying that they’re being imposed upon. I personally think that they should never have taken prayer out of schools. I would rather there be some morality in schools. But they did that because an atheist went to court and said their child — don’t pray (INAUDIBLE).

SCHLUSSEL: And what about this obnoxious Michael Newdow, who went all the way to the Supreme Court for his child, the child doesn’t know what’s going on, to try and get under God taken out of the pledge of allegiance. They are on the attack. It’s obnoxious and they do need to shut up.

SMITH: They are going on the attack, but the reality, again, is everybody has their own cause. The fact is there’s a whole bunch of people in America who need to shut up and they don’t. So why should these people be any less. We live in a nation. We’re supposed to be tolerant. We’re supposed to be accepting of other people’s viewpoints, even when they are not our own and the fact is, if they’re an atheist, that’s their right. They’re not going to change my belief in God (INAUDIBLE).

ZAHN: What I find so interesting is when you look at the statistics, that they were the most hated of all the minorities, gays (INAUDIBLE).

SMITH: I’m not even willing to believe that. That’s news to me. I heard that, I read that, I just don’t believe it.

HUNTER: You can’t pick an atheist out of a crowd.

ZAHN: Can you explain to me where you feel the assault? When 97 percent of the folks in this country claim to worship some kind of God, the 1 to 3 percent of this population that doesn’t believe in God, who are they hurting?

HUNTER: Eight to 12 percent. (INAUDIBLE) They’re not hurting anyone. I personally don’t have a problem with an atheist. Believe or don’t believe what you want. Don’t impose upon my right to want to have prayer in schools, to want to say the pledge of allegiance, to want to honor my God. Don’t infringe upon that right.

SMITH: When they want to take – when they want to take God out of the pledge of allegiance or whatever, this is what I’m saying. They’re saying, OK, that’s Christian. What if you’re a Muslim? What if you’re someone of a different belief?

SCHLUSSEL: This is a Christian country.

SMITH: I understand that, but what they’re saying is how can — if we’re inclusionary, why can’t we include all that and we’re not. That’s my point.

SCHLUSSEL: (INAUDIBLE) Look where there are more atheists and where they’ve lost God, where the church is not that strong. Europe is becoming Islamist. It’s fast falling and intolerance is increasing. That’s the one reason our country has not become like Europe because we have strong Christians and because atheists are not strong. And I think that’s a good thing.

Schlussel is a raving lunatic and always has been, so there’s nothing she says that surprises me. But Karen Hunter, who I’d never heard of before, is an absolute moron. “Don’t impose upon my right to want to have prayer in schools”? Are you daft? These people really do think that if they can’t force YOU to participate in their religious exercises, you’re denying THEIR rights. It’s absolutely insane reasoning.

Comments

  1. #1 Will E.
    February 7, 2007

    I can’t even bring myself to watch this video, which has been all the rage at PZ’s site and some other atheist blogs. “Don’t impose upon my right to want to have prayer in schools”–yes, see, I think that’s exactly right; that’s precisely how these people see things. I phrase it like this: “How dare you infringe upon my right to tell you what to do!” They’re outraged and think we’re hypocrites because we’re “intolerant” of their intolerance. It can be a real mindfuck.

  2. #2 Will
    February 7, 2007

    Jesus Rational Christ, a panel about atheists and they don’t include a single atheist?

  3. #3 Kevin
    February 7, 2007

    Man, CNN is going to get flooded with emails. I wonder if they’ll mention anything on air. The internet is crawling with us mean ol’ atheists. If CNN didn’t like us before, they’re going to hate us after this settles down.

  4. #4 Gretchen
    February 7, 2007

    …is this supposed to pass for news? Perhaps the movie “Idiocracy” is in fact a pre-documentary.

  5. #5 gateman's nametag
    February 7, 2007

    These people are insane. When Stephen A. Smith is the voice of reason…oh, man, it’s been said too many times.

    Debbie Schlussel is a hack, she says shocking things to gain an audience – in Detroit she is known as the “Jewish Ann Coulter” although she may be slightly more militant.

    I have no idea who this Karen Hunter is, but she lost her credibility as soon as she started talking about atheist greeting cards. Um…WTF? How does somebody like this get on TV??? I find it hard to believe that anyone is that dense, let alone a professional journalist. And then this:

    Don’t impose upon my right to want to have prayer in schools, to want to say the pledge of allegiance, to want to honor my God. Don’t infringe upon that right.

    I know how ridiculous the argument is, but if you read the statement in English instead of Dumbglish, she’s really complaining about her right to WANT to do those things. Those rights are guaranteed by our constitution, you can want whatever you like. It doesn’t mean you’re gonna get it, especially not if it means taking freedom away from others.

  6. #6 Dave
    February 7, 2007

    OMF-FSM!

    Their hateful god should burn them with gnashing-teeth-pain for all eternity.

  7. #7 Austin Cline
    February 7, 2007

    I’ve linked to your post in a follow-up to my original February 1 post on the issue.

  8. #8 Herb
    February 7, 2007

    Actually, I think someone should take the greeting card idea and run with it…

    Warm wishes this holiday season. Let there be peace on Earth and good will toward men.

    P.S. There is no God.

  9. #9 Leni
    February 7, 2007

    LOL @ Herb. I’d buy it.

  10. #10 Craig Pennington
    February 7, 2007

    … about an atheist family who was hounded out of a town in Mississippi after complaining about their local public school using class time for prayer and Bible reading. …

    HUNTER: … Are we not going to take “In God We Trust” off of our dollars? Are we going to not say “one nation under God?” When does it end? We took prayer out of schools. What more do they want?

    Obviously they hadn’t taken prayer out of the public schools — that was the complaint that caused the people who think that they should be able to use your tax dollar to proselytize your children into their religion went all taliban on their atheist asses.

  11. #11 RPM
    February 7, 2007

    I missed it the first time around, but Screaming A. Smith as the voice of reason?? What’s the world come to??

    YouTube video here.

  12. #12 CPT_Doom
    February 7, 2007

    Schlussel was on Michaelangelo Signorile’s Sirius radio show a couple of weeks ago going on about Keith Ellison – the Muslim member of Congress. She complained and complained that Ellison had not denounced terrorism enough – apparently he hasn’t named the specific groups she wants him to. When Signorile asked whether she would be satisfied if Ellison said some specific things – about Hamas, etc. – she brought up what she said was a verse from the Koran that allows Muslims to lie in order to harm the infidels – basically she was arguing that you can’t ever trust a Muslim.

  13. #13 FishyFred
    February 7, 2007

    I watched the pre-recorded report and then cued up the video of the panel, but as soon as I saw Stephen A. Smith, I said to myself “WTF?” and turned it off.

  14. #14 Joe Shelby
    February 7, 2007

    From a friend’s review of the first few pages of Monkey Girl:

    But I’m thinking… when our enemy was using science, we responded by raising scientific standards in this country. Could the new emphasis on religion in government, and the willingness of a (bare) majority to push religion in schools be due to the fact that our current enemy is using fervent faith against us? So much of the current Middle Eastern war has been framed as “our God can beat up your false God” that I’m starting to wonder.

  15. #15 386sx
    February 7, 2007

    I have no idea who this Karen Hunter is, but she lost her credibility as soon as she started talking about atheist greeting cards.

    Right. Asking people to shut up and then asking them to get their own greeting cards? Asking if atheists should keep their religious beliefs secret? They may or may not be the most hated minority because you can’t pick them out of a crowd? I’m sorry but those guys aren’t having their thinking caps on.

  16. #16 dogmeatIB
    February 7, 2007

    That pissed me off and I’m not even an atheist. I’m more of an “I don’t know, I suppose I’ll find out when I die”-ist.

    I love the constant demands that anyone who has a voice/view, idea that they don’t like should “just shut up.” So much for free speech. Then you have the “this is a Christian nation,” I hear that whenever we discuss the pledge and I ask them, what if it said, “under Allah?” Many of them are handicapped in their ability to see things from another point of view, that they can’t do it even if you smacked them dead in the face with it.

  17. #17 chris
    February 7, 2007

    Re: greeting cards – I often send (select) friends a “Happy Winter Solstice” card in December, and sometimes if I’m feeling puckish a “Happy Vernal Equinox” card at Eastertime.

    At least I’ve convinced my wife, who comes from a long line of Upper Midwest Lutherans, ELCA variety (i.e. it’s OK with her to have a woman pastor) to print “Happy Holidays” on the family photo cards we get at Best Buy.

  18. #18 doctorgoo
    February 7, 2007

    Well heck, I know plenty of people who would claim that a generic “Happy Holidays” card is an atheist attack on Christianity.

  19. #19 chris
    February 7, 2007

    How do you know Bill O’Reilly?

  20. #20 doctorgoo
    February 7, 2007

    Oh, I send him holiday cards every December.

    But I feel he doesn’t appreciate my sincerity…

  21. #21 Eric Wallace
    February 8, 2007

    Don’t impose upon my right to want to have prayer in schools

    We may agree that she can’t have prayer in schools, but surely we can all fight for her right to want to have prayer in schools! Huzzah!

    No?

    Too Monty Python-esque?

  22. #22 Daniel Morgan
    February 8, 2007

    Regarding the response that CNN received:

    ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Tomorrow night, you’ve sent us thousands of angry e-mails about our segment on discrimination of atheists. It is one of the most controversial subjects we’ve ever brought “Out in the Open.” Tonight we’re going to have more of that — on that, including probably one of the most famous atheists in the world, Richard Dawkins.

    (link very bottom of transcript)

    -From Wed’s episode of Paula Zahn Now, he is appearing at 8PM EST.

    What I wonder is — were the emails from theists or us godless ones?

  23. #23 Chris Berez
    February 8, 2007

    We may agree that she can’t have prayer in schools, but surely we can all fight for her right to want to have prayer in schools! Huzzah!

    No?

    Too Monty Python-esque?

    It’s symbolic of her struggle against reality!

  24. #24 Flying Fox
    February 8, 2007

    I often wonder about Jewish people like Schlussel. Is she a self-hater? She’s volunteered to be a Christianist lapdog.

  25. #25 Kristine
    February 8, 2007

    Debbie Schlussel, an Ann Coulter wannabe who is actually more absurd than Ann, which I never thought possible

    Here’s lil’ Debbi-cake’s take on it:

    “Oh, so like, Ann Coulter is, totally, like, so two cupcakes ago!

    “And we all know that the freedom to diet doesn’t mean freedom from dieting.

    Like, so there, y’all.”

  26. #26 PMembrane
    February 8, 2007

    Don’t impose upon my right to want to have prayer in schools

    When Scientology shut down a group of schismatics who attempted to practice the religion outside of the official Church (the lawsuit claimed they were staging unauthorized performances of their “trade secret scriptures”) the Scientology attorney called it a “victory for religious freedom” as the settlement had ensured that ‘real’ Scientologists would be free to see that their religion would be practiced as they saw fit.

  27. #27 Ed Brayton
    February 8, 2007

    Daniel-

    Now that, I think, is effective advocacy (as opposed to the blasphemy challenge). Contrary to the ridiculous lie being told by PZ, that I “loathe atheists and want to see them silenced”, I strongly advocate atheists standing up for their rights, defending themselves against the raft of absurd misconceptions about atheists and atheism, and debunking the many myths about themselves. Indeed, I have written dozens of posts contributing to that effort myself. And I’m glad to see that our collective effort to get the word out on CNN’s appalling piece on the atheist family hounded out of their home by intolerant bigots has forced them to do something different. I think that’s a big victory. I hope they do a lot more on it, because this family is hardly the only one who has been subjected to such treatment. But hey, what do I know, I hate atheists and I want to see them silenced, right?

  28. #28 Jake
    February 8, 2007

    A good old fashioned pogrom!

  29. #29 Jake
    February 8, 2007

    Hmm. This line from Paula stuck out to me:

    “Some atheists try to hide their secular views.”

    I see. Secular = atheist? or something…

  30. #30 Jake
    February 8, 2007

    Only 1-3% That’s not right at all. It’s more like 10-15%

  31. #31 Poly
    February 9, 2007

    Ed:

    Putting aside the obvious loonies on CNN, I have another question for you.

    If the details of the story are accurate, there actually wasn’t any government action or denial of civil rights involved in this situation. The people involved were all purely private actors who simply didn’t like the “Smith’s” religious views and let them know it.

    I don’t think that would be illegal, unless the “Smith” family was denied housing or denied service by local businesses or subject to unequal official treatment or some such thing.

    In fact, I think the private conduct could have gone even further and still not be illegal. For example, I think that private individuals could have printed and distributed flyers identifying the “Smith’s” religious views. They could have put up signs on their own property or on their own vehicles saying the same thing. I don’t think anything of the sort actually happened here, but I think that if it had, it would have been protected expression so long as there were no threats involved.

    The “Smith” family seems to have left town because of their discomfort in living amongst a bunch of bigots – not because they were subject to any illegal activity.

    Now one may disagree with that sort of intolerance – as I certainly do – but I don’t see a legal issue involved here. Am I correct?

  32. #32 Ed Brayton
    February 9, 2007

    Poly wrote:

    I don’t think that would be illegal, unless the “Smith” family was denied housing or denied service by local businesses or subject to unequal official treatment or some such thing.

    Well one of the claims they make is that they were forced out of their home by the landlord. Another is that their children faced harassment at school. Both are potential legal problems, but they would depend on the details. Regardless, I think such behavior should be condemned by all decent people.

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