Pharyngula

A suggestion for Elwood, Indiana

Rename the town “Peckerwood”.1 It would be more fitting. Addition of the modifier “two-bit” is entirely optional.

Here’s the story. Local citizen walks into the Public Library, and notices that it is displaying a Christian nativity scene. He asks to meet with the library director to complain. This, of course, violates the God-given right of Christians to use state resources to trumpet their piety in the public square exclusively, so stark raving hysteria erupts. The director makes counter-accusations, lies to the local media, and suggests that the nasty little atheist ought not to use the library if he dislikes it. Other library employees post an exaggerated version of the incident to the web. Now the poor guy is worried about his safety and that of his family.

Let this be a lesson to you. If you are an atheist, you do not have a right to object to religion being thrust in your face. Sit down and shut up.2 Especially if you are living in a place like Peckerwood, Indiana.

i-c8c3932e14962ed685969c1f48067e62-militant.jpeg

1I’m not being original. I bet half the kids in that town already call it that.

2You know I’m being sarcastic. The real message is that you might as well stand up and holler louder — polite restraint gains you nothing at all.

Comments

  1. #1 Flingwing
    December 30, 2008

    Down here in South Africa I’ve found that in some libraries there is a more subtle version of discrimination against atheists going on. On a number of occasions I’ve donated some of my old books to the libraries, and while all the ‘normal’ books (on astronomy for instance) make it onto the shelves, books like “The God Delusion” and “God is not Great” never make it that far..

  2. #2 ennui
    December 30, 2008

    Another victory for the non-overlapping ‘magesteria’ of church and state.

  3. #3 clinteas
    December 30, 2008

    So there’s a christian nativity scene in the public library.Whats the big deal?

    The problem here is the perception this gets,and the totally predictable public outcry about the “intolerant unfair atheist”.

    Why cant he just be cool about it,have a giggle and let the nativity scene be a nativity scene?

    I know,I know,lets not be quiet anymore,stand up and be vocal,but hey,its some small town library nativity scene display,who cares?

  4. #4 C
    December 30, 2008

    Every December, the middle school in Denison, Texas has these words on the school’s electric billboard: CHRIST – THE REASON FOR THE SEASON

    Every December I’m appalled and angry and yet afraid to confront, even anonymously, the issue because, as I’m sure most of you know, down here in Texas, God trumps that pesky Constitution thing and woe to anyone in these small [minded], willfully ignorant towns who dares to defy the status quo…

  5. #5 Varlo
    December 30, 2008

    I have read most of the locals comments and I confess that I am baffled. What on earth is a community with so many cretins even doing with a library? If this country ever becomes the theocracy that these stupid and evil people appear to desire, we are but a half-step away from concentration camps for unbelievers (and, of course, gays, libruls and evilushunists).

  6. #6 woody
    December 30, 2008

    Innit wonderful how fanatical religious zealots can cast a pall on free speech?

    “I know,I know,lets not be quiet anymore,stand up and be vocal,but hey,its some small town library nativity scene display,who cares?”

    Who cares? Kinda like Darth Cheney: “So?”

    Izzis a great cunchry, or what?

  7. #7 Mike in Ontario, NY
    December 30, 2008

    clinteas, you’re a dishonest idiot. You’ve asked the same question over and over again on similar threads, and have had the issue explained to you in clear and logical language every single time.
    It’s just like saying (in Germany circa 1930) “well, why can’t the Jews take a hint and just move out of our country if they don’t like being attacked” or (in present-day America) “faggots should stay home and keep to themselves if they don’t like getting beat up by thugs”. I suppose we should all have kept quiet when women were denied the vote, blacks denied equal rights, etc. etc.
    Why don’t YOU just shut up and let the adults deal with this thread?

  8. #8 Stephanie
    December 30, 2008

    It’s not “some small town,” it’s *his* small town, the place where he and his family make their home, and the man has every right to object to a religious display on public property he uses. It’s not like a bunch of atheists flew in from some terrible den of sin like New York and demanded that these hapless folks cease and desist from all Christmas celebrations.* The fact that one guy trying to make his own town more congenial to non-Christians (and Christians who are touchy about idols, and Christians who care about seperating church from state…) feeds into some “intolerant unfair atheist” narrative is not that gentleman’s fault, and he shouldn’t be expected to cease all local political activity for fear of what imbeciles who’ve already made up their minds will say.

    *Shoving the trees up chimneys, stealing the Christmas roast beast… Can you tell I just sent The Grinch to my nephew?

  9. #9 Kim
    December 30, 2008

    There is a conflict between just letting something go since the cost of the argument isn’t worth it and fighting something when it clearly violates the law. I think it’s worth the fight, though. Those who will see this as just plain intolerance, atheist prejudice, whathaveyou probably can’t be swayed. But there are those who can. There are people in the community who have doubts and when they read of this incident in the paper then they know there are people who feel like they do. That they aren’t alone. It’s important that they know that.

  10. #10 Laura
    December 30, 2008

    I grew up in the southern part of this same county in Indiana. This kind of idiocy is one of the reasons I left for good in 1993–to go to grad school to obtain an MLS, ironically enough. I just returned from spending the holidays there, and I can tell you that people are talking about it still. The reaction of the townspeople does not surprise me at all. Ignorance is rampant, and a “majority rules” mindset prevails. These folks find safety and strength in their Christian numbers, and they will tolerate no opposition. They will be happy with nothing less than publicly ridiculing and harassing this guy until he fears for his safety and leaves town. They honestly think that because there are more of them than of us, they are justified in whatever they do. Individually, Madison County residents are fine. Collectively, they can be terrifying.

  11. #11 DaveG
    December 30, 2008

    Can’t we all just get along? Everyone has good points, but insults lower the debate, Mike. I used to verbally accost litterbugs, particularly cigarette-butt-throwers-on-ground, but I stopped after Nurse Ratched got me fixed up.

  12. #12 clinteas
    December 30, 2008

    Hello Mike in Ontario,

    a balanced and objective comment you made there,keep up the good work,and sorry if i disagree with you on the issue.Feel free to abuse me for my position all you like.

    It’s just like saying (in Germany circa 1930) “well, why can’t the Jews take a hint and just move out of our country if they don’t like being attacked”

    A garbage argument,you have got to be kidding right? A nativity scene has nothing to do with “taking a hint to move out of the country”,which by the way is not what happened in Germany in 1930,when it still had a democratic government in case you didnt know,nor in 1934,when it didnt.

    Godwin’s law at post number 7,thats got to be a record.

    The threads to this guy’s family is very regrettable,but utterly predictable,and for what?
    The fight for the separation of church and state and to keep religion out of public live is not going to be won fighting innocuous nativity displays in Peckerwood,Indiana,but with educating your people and giving them social security and health insurance.

    Go on,Mike,fling some more abuse,I can take it mate.

  13. #13 RM
    December 30, 2008

    Funny, I checked out and read “Letter to a Christian Nation” and “god is not Great” from my local library in small town South Carolina.

  14. #14 dead yeti
    December 30, 2008

    Hi clinteas, yes education, social security and health insurance are all great and good and will turn the tide in these sorts of places, but we’re not all president and in a position to provide them.

    We can all exercise our rights and complain to the appropriate authorities when were not happy about things, and if our complaining just like the athesist placard in washington state creates debate that can only be a good thing.

  15. #15 RyRy Cooter
    December 30, 2008

    clinteas,

    Really? Really?! Try clicking through to read some of that legendary Christian love and tolerance. Innocuous, my ass. You should see the responses to mild suggestions to donate the Nativity scene to a church. These people are seriously deranged.

    Oh, and you got Godwin’s Law wrong. FAIL.

  16. #16 pikeamus
    December 30, 2008

    @clinteas

    Did you not read the man in questions own version of events? Even if he is being dishonest and went in with the intent of asking for the nativity to be removed (which I personally would not have bothered with but I do think its a very defensible move) then it is not only morally objectionable that he has been treated the way he has but also completely illegal (I’m referring to the release by the library of his personal details). I very much hope he takes legal action and that the staff members that took it upon themselves to release his details are fired.

  17. #17 Lee Picton
    December 30, 2008

    No matter how small the town, a nativity display in a PUBLIC building IS illegal and pretending that it is OK is an implied poke in the eye to anyone who isn’t a Jebus worshipper. It is EXACTLY these displays that must be taken seriously; they represent the camel’s nose in the test. As a matter of fact, the camel is now damn near up to his hump inside the tent in this country and it is jolly well time he was pushed back out, no matter where he is.

  18. #18 George
    December 30, 2008

    Didn’t you mean to write; “two-bit Peckerwood, Indiana?”

    I guess two-bit peckerwood also could not stand the heat and moved the discussion thread on the city website about this story to a members only forum.

  19. #19 clinteas
    December 30, 2008

    dead yeti,

    yes I take your point,and you are right,but look at what is now happening to this guy.Because he is outnumbered in that place.

    Laura @ 10 described it well:

    The reaction of the townspeople does not surprise me at all. Ignorance is rampant, and a “majority rules” mindset prevails. These folks find safety and strength in their Christian numbers, and they will tolerate no opposition

    @ 16,

    I believe the guy did not ask for the scene to be removed,and Im sure the librarian was being an asshole,and probably leaked his details to the press,what i was trying to say was that all this was predictable,and it is not worth risking the wellbeing of your family for a statue in a library in Peckerwood,Indiana.

    My opinion,feel free to disagree.

  20. #20 Gman
    December 30, 2008

    I wish nativity scenes were the worst of our troubles in my hometown. Here in Red Deer, Alberta, more and more of our public schools are becoming “closed” schools; that is, they are simply closing their doors to non-Christians. Parents wishing to enroll their children at these “Gateway” schools must agree to Christian (fundamentalist) education.

    Teaching, support staff, and even school bus drivers must “participate in the life of a church that is faithful to Scripture and with whose teaching and doctrine the GCS Basic Statement is consistent.” (http://www.rdpsd.ab.ca/gcs/, click on “School Profile”). Until we found out and publicised the fact, even grade school students were obliged to sign a loyalty oath indicating their commitment to Christian belief.

    Remember, these are fully publicly-funded schools within the nominally “public” school system, funded with tax dollars. Most school board officials see nothing wrong with this situation (since the schools are popular and compete effectively with private Christian schools). And others are too afraid to say anything publicly.

    Even the local newspaper has published an editorial alleging (falsely) that these schools are not practicing religious discrimination.(http://www.albertalocalnews.com/reddeeradvocate/opinion/Gateway_Christian_has_proven_its_worth.html)

  21. #21 Epinephrine
    December 30, 2008

    Not being from the USofA, I’m not certain exactly what the law is about public libraries and this kind of display, but I do wonder about one part of the above –

    Local citizen walks into the Public Library, and notices that it is displaying a Christian nativity scene. He asks to meet with the library director to complain. This, of course, violates the God-given right of Christians to use state resources to trumpet their piety in the public square exclusively, so stark raving hysteria erupts.

    To be fair, the article says that they were given the diorama as a gift – perhaps they shouldn’t have accepted it, but nowhere does it say that they wouldn’t also allow displays of other religions/atheism.

    How is the display of a nativity scene exclusive use of the property? So long as they are open to others also using the space I don’t see much of a problem, provided it isn’t against the law. As the library are the owners of the display in this case, it may be completely inappropriate.

    I know that I don’t care whether there is a nativity scene, so long as there can also be a diorama of the FSM, or an atheist poster, should they desire use of the space. I’m not trying to be a concern troll, honest, but while I can certainly see why public property should be free to use by any group, and that the government shouldn’t fund religious displays (as it thus would be encouraging religion over non-religion, or one religious tradition over another), I don’t see why it would be bad to allow a group to display something, provided the same courtesy were extended to other groups that wished to put up displays.

    Now, the rest of it I agree with entirely. The library director went to the media, causing problems for no reason. The harrassment is of course unwarranted and absurd. The fact that the library owns the display and chooses to display it is government of a sort promoting religion – though given that no funds were apparently spent on the display it is a harder piece to argue. Donate some nice Atheist/Pastafarian/Pewish/Muslim holiday displays, and if they don’t display those as well there is certainly an issue.

  22. #22 Steve S
    December 30, 2008

    I live about 30 minutes to the south of Elwood and drove through it for about 3 years to a job in Marion, Indiana. I can tell you this is not surprising at all. Elwood has never been a town of tolerance and I do not expect it to become so any time in the near future.

    It is known even now as the home of the KKK so this is not really out of character.

  23. #23 Epinephrine
    December 30, 2008

    Arg – that was Jewish in the above post. I wish there were an edit button!

  24. #24 RyRy Cooter
    December 30, 2008

    Here in Red Deer, Alberta

    My condolences, Gman.

    what i was trying to say was that all this was predictable,and it is not worth risking the wellbeing of your family for a statue in a library in Peckerwood,Indiana.

    I think that’s the point, clinteas. Something is seriously wrong if pointing out a constitutional violation entails “risking the wellbeing of your family”. I’ll grant that such displays are not necessarily meant as symbols of intolerance to non-Christians — they may just clueless and inconsiderate — but, as Laura noted, the reactions here are pretty good evidence to the contrary.

  25. #25 pikeamus
    December 30, 2008

    clinteas:

    The professional librarians I’ve known (admittedly only british ones but I’m making the, perhaps dubious, assumption that they are similar across the pond) have all taken their responsibilities very seriously (in fact too seriously most of the time). Given this I think I would be totally shocked if my details had been leaked to the press after such an incident. So no, I don’t think the full extent of what has happened was predictable.

  26. #26 ProfFeather
    December 30, 2008

    He has my support. What was said and done by him by a tax supported public employee was WRONG. Christians MUST realize that they do not have a public forum in places supported by tax dollars. The constitution is the ultimate law of the land and is not “just a piece of paper.” The city lawyer was right to tell them to remove the display. I don’t mind this type of display in the proper place. It allows me to explain to my son, when we see such a thing, to explain the christian legends in the proper context. The PUBLIC display in a library is the wrong place to display such a thing.

    Do you like the “capital letters?” Its the way the fundies add emphisis to their rants… damn-In retrospect…

  27. #27 Randy
    December 30, 2008

    Stephanie @8:

    In all fairness, the per capita sin level here in NYC is relatively low. Merely an 18 on the Sodom & Gomorrah scale, which puts us a full 82 points below Sodom at the time Lot offered the town his daughter to gang-bang.
    On the other hand, you make an excellent point. We filthy atheists deserve a say in our own communities.

  28. #28 dinkum
    December 30, 2008

    Gman,

    My paternal grandparents came south from Red Deer, and I’ve always wanted to visit the place sometime…and you’re breaking my heart.

    That editorial you linked to seems to say “you had your chance to object, now it’s too late, so suck it.” I suspect that nothing was said about fealty oaths when the expansion was being approved, and now they’re just being typically disingenuous. Is all dissent being righteously crushed?

    I’m wondering if your nickname means what I think it does…

  29. #29 RyRy Cooter
    December 30, 2008

    Epinepherine @21,

    IANAL (any lawyers please speak up), but that’s my understanding of the law as well: that they can host such displays as long as they don’t discriminate (cf. the recent reducio ad absurdum in Washington state). But I think the reactions of the library director and staff are pretty good evidence that they wouldn’t be willing to host a Hannukkiah or a Holiday ode to noodles and commercialism.

    BTW, I think I’m going to start calling myself a “Pewish atheist” thanks to you. It’s a lot shorter than “Pastafarian Jewish atheist”.

  30. #30 Smrt Newfie
    December 30, 2008

    Has anyone read the comments made in the article (second link) by wildthang1971? “my 6 year old is mad”, she wants to know why someone would hate the baby Jebus. Funny, funny stuff.

  31. #31 Zeno
    December 30, 2008

    I presume that the good townsfolk (esp. those who fear “satinists”) would quickly change their minds about “standing up for what you believe” if it turned out that they had a nonbelieving librarian. The moment such a librarian put up a holiday display celebrating secular humanism, I’m sure lynching would be considered.

  32. #32 TSC
    December 30, 2008

    Clinteas: Showing partiality toward one monotheism is da problem. Either all 800,000 gods get represented or none.

  33. #33 Darth Wader
    December 30, 2008

    The funny thing is we as atheist are really fighting for the cristian’s rights as well. Maybe instead of trying to not have any nativity sets put up, we should DEMAND that only nativity scenes that are up to 7 day adventist’s specs are allowed.

  34. #34 Sastra
    December 30, 2008

    Epinephrine #21 wrote:

    I know that I don’t care whether there is a nativity scene, so long as there can also be a diorama of the FSM, or an atheist poster, should they desire use of the space.

    But that makes them just as mad, if not madder. Look at the fuss over the atheist sign in Washington state’s Capitol. Pick either option, and the Christians will be calling it “even worse” than the other option.

    Yes, the over-reaction is predictable — though I think nobody ever really expects this sort of thing from friends and neighbors till it happens. They think “oh, but they know me, and like me, so they will understand I’m advocating something that’s a matter of principle to me.” No, they won’t — because they don’t want to see you as a real person anymore: you’ve stepped into the religious drama going on in their heads, right into the one-dimensional role of “bad guy.”

    But the risk only means that each person needs to judge for themselves how much risk they can afford. It doesn’t mean that atheists are stupidly ‘asking for it’ whenever they take the proverbial sip from the Whites-Only drinking fountain, or sit at the lunchcounter, in the front. Someone has to. The little day-to-day infringements on church-state separation are what give courage for the larger ones.

  35. #35 TGAP_Dad
    December 30, 2008

    One more suggestion: when you complain about such obvious violations, record the conversation. High school student Matthew LeClair surreptitiously recorded his Kearney, NJ teacher spouting his religion in class. When Matt complained to the administration, the teacher lied, and was then confronted with the recordings (Ouch!)

    Here’s the NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/18/nyregion/18kearny.html?ex=1324098000&en=87af8b74af1e13cc&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

  36. #36 Miguel
    December 30, 2008

    Nancy Sumner of Elwood Library:

    HOWEVER…. I will leave one piece in the display case….. it will be the donkey. Also known in the Bible as the jackass!!

    And from now on, also known on the interwebs as a “Nancy Sumner”.

  37. #37 Cruithne
    December 30, 2008

    Clinteas do you think Rosa Parks should just have moved to the back off the bus rather than put herself in an uncomfortable position?
    Why cause a fuss when there’s no need, eh?

  38. #38 CalGeorge
    December 30, 2008

    Library Bill of Rights

    The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

    I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

    II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

    III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

    IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

    V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

    VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

    Adopted June 18, 1948, by the ALA Council; amended February 2, 1961; amended June 28, 1967; amended January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 24, 1996.

    http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/statementspols/statementsif/librarybillrights.cfm

    I look forward to hearing of the Elwood Library’s gay and lesbian pride display. And of the Library Director’s vociferous defense of the display when the Library’s more tender-minded patrons object to it.

  39. #39 Cruithne
    December 30, 2008

    Off s/b of…

  40. #40 Diagoras
    December 30, 2008

    To Epinephrene –

    Doesn’t matter that the diorama was a gift. Similar ten commandments have been gifted for displays in courthouses or schools. The legality of their display is contingent upon the designation of the property (open forum, limited public forum, public forum, etc.), the weighing of factors in the Lemon test. I could give you a laundry list of cases regarding maintaining the wall of separation between church and state. Legally – far easier for the library to maintain no religion-based displays rather than trigger an analysis of the establishment clause v. free exercise clause. If the library tosses up a nativity display – they can’t ban any other display based on viewpoint. Even the nutter Fred Phelps sort. Or they have to show the secular purpose of the display, show that it doesn’t have the primary purpose of advancing religion, and doesn’t result in excessive government entanglement with religion. Or they can go with door number three and take it down.

    The library, when addressing the complaint by a patron – decided to go with keeping the display up and throwing a major hissy-fit option. With the added bonus of illegally displaying the guy’s library record, making a private complaint super-public in the paper. Public in a way that incited the uber-Christians to threaten the guy’s family.

    I would rather the library spent the taxpayer dollars on books than legal battles. I’m a fan of reading.

  41. #41 Stephanie
    December 30, 2008

    Randy (27)-
    It had the highest sin/atheism correlation I could think of at the moment. While my own hometown (New Orleans) is generally perceived as being in the 3-4 dS (deciSoddoms) range, I haven’t heard us much associated with atheism in the national media. Wild bacchantic paganism, sure, but the man wasn’t accused of having an awesome party in the library.

  42. #42 Ouchimoo
    December 30, 2008

    Gman that’s terrible! How are the church/government laws in Ca anyways? Honestly, I am not very familiar with them, (typical arrogant American huh?) Some good news I heard was last time I was in Canada (Sk) my grandmother was complaining that everyone was trying to snuff out the churches and religion. The bad news to that could make them try and take control over schools to indoctrinate children easier. :(

  43. #43 Stimpy Godless Cat
    December 30, 2008

    Wow, is Nancy the Elwood Library Employee ever a shitty writer.

  44. #44 DGoodin
    December 30, 2008

    We had a somewhat similar kerfluffle a few years back in my town — this one regarding a ten commandments monument that sat in front of the city municipal building. A citizen requested that it be removed and the ACLU got involved. The city council voted to remove the monument rather than be sued, and in the resulting hysteria a special recall election was held for one of the council members who voted for removal. Thankfully, the council member retained her seat (and eventually became our mayor) and the monument was moved to a permanent home on the campus of a local Christian college, but the wounds from this whole event are still present almost ten years later. To this day, my relationship with a few formerly close friends is very strained, due to our differences on the issue (I favored moving the monument). The really funny thing was, it turned out that the monument was donated to the city by Cecil B. DeMille as part of a promotional campaign for his movie — apparently there are a number of these things scattered about the country.

    I am certainly not defending the librarian in Indiana, whose actions were clearly unconstitutional (as well as just plain rude), but I am saying that it’s always a good idea to consider how pressing a personal fight can cause damage far out of proportion to the good that might come from it. It’s a personal decision where that line is, I would never tell anyone when they should or shouldn’t protest what they perceive to be wrong, but I would ask them to think carefully before acting.

    Just my $0.02.

  45. #45 dogmeatib
    December 30, 2008

    The constitutional argument is relatively simple and well founded. Public displays are legal, but only if they aren’t exclusive. The Library can have such a display, but then they have to open the forum for other non-Christian displays as well. If they refuse to do so, they are establishing an exclusive forum and are in violation of the legal interpretation of the 1st amendment.

    My advise would be for them to approach the library to put up other displays. A Menorah, a tree of reason, a Festivus pole, etc. The library will almost certainly refuse such requests, will doubtless not have an established policy for what guidelines are established for this open forum (because it is an exclusive display), and then will open itself up for a lawsuit that it will lose miserably.

    The problem with these small towns, and really this is what Palin was talking about with such reverence and regard, they establish a “majority mindset.” The people in small towns tend to be a local majority, mostly Christian, mostly white, mostly Norwegian, whatever the local composition happens to be. For some the majority is no big deal, makes for some rather interesting and often quite cool local customs. For some, racial, religious, etc., they can be quite cruel and brutal (as this example shows us). What they need to understand, and what clinteas doesn’t seem to get, is that there is no such thing as a pure majority rules, “if you don’t like it, leave” legal precedent in the United States. In fact, the Bill of Rights, and our legal structure, are designed specifically to protect minority rights.

    Small towns run into this more often because the vast majority of the people there agree with the majority sentiment. Large cities have more diversity, people are more open to seeing other points of view. In the small town public forum, people honestly believe that their specific beliefs, opinions, point of view, etc., has an exclusive right to be expressed. The vast majority of these cases take place in rural or rural/suburban communities because the level of opposition to these violations is virtually non existent. The homogeneous nature of these communities makes it, for want of a better term, a breeding ground of intolerance.

  46. #46 Smrt Newfie
    December 30, 2008

    Ouchimoo:
    church/govt issues are generally not a problem in Canada. That’s not to say that we don’t have the occasional mixing of the two. In fact, I was in New Brunswick visiting my parents over xmas and the public commons in Rothesay was hosting a nativity display courtesy of the Knights of Columbus. Above it was a sign saying “Lets keep the Christ in Christmas”.

    I think the reason people up here generally don’t worry too much about it is that we don’t have a politically powerful right wing Christian lobby like you have in the US. Having said that, our current Prime Minister (a proud Albertan) may change that if he can ever manage a majority government. Some of his MPs are trying to reopen the debate on the legality of abortion.

  47. #47 unicow
    December 30, 2008

    I can’t understand the people here who are saying that the guy should have expected this outcome.

    Were I in his position I’d probably expect either to be ignored entirely or to be told something like “we’ll look into it” (which would be a lie). I would *not* expect to be dragged in front of the media or to have my library records made public. I certainly wouldn’t expect it to result in danger to myself or my family.

    Maybe I’m naive. Maybe this is what always happens in situations like this one. Or maybe it’s not, and our unfortunate protagonist just happened to encounter a nasty, vicious, ignorant librarian who has taken it upon herself to try to destroy him.

    Either way, what’s done is done. The question now is how to help the poor guy.

  48. #48 Qwerty
    December 30, 2008

    If the town was called Peckerwood, would the citizens be known as Peckerheads?

  49. #49 Mike in Ontario, NY
    December 30, 2008

    Clinteas @ 19:
    “What i was trying to say was that all this was predictable,and it is not worth risking the wellbeing of your family for a statue in a library…”

    So people with minority opinions have fewer rights of self-expression, under threat of violence to self and family?

    If you honestly don’t see a problem with that, then you have a serious problem. You’ve moved from being boring and repetitive to advocating for a society where the majority rule via threat of harm. Nice. Christian paradise indeed.

    Morality fail.
    Democracy fail.

  50. #50 Tony
    December 30, 2008

    Long time reader, first time poster.

    I am not surprised at all.

    I have friends who live in Tipton, the next town to the west of Elwood, and have visited them frequently. I have also heard them talk about the residents of Elwood. It should come as no surprise that Elwood was, if I remember correctly, the home of the Indiana state chapter of the KKK. The one friend teaches adult education in Elwood, and has tried over the years to raise the level of tolerance in the town. There is only so much a single person can do…

  51. #51 C R S
    December 30, 2008

    If the town was called Peckerwood, would the citizens be known as Peckerheads?

    A peckerhead by any other name is just as lame.

  52. #52 Smrt Newfie
    December 30, 2008

    I believe the correct term is Peckerwoody.

  53. #53 Randy
    December 30, 2008

    Stephanie @41:

    That’s a very respectable score. It really puts us to shame. Thank Gawd new Year’s Eve is tomorrow, since we traditionally get a good S & G bump that night.
    I used to live in Louisiana and always thought NO, (with the possible exception of BR), was the only liveable bit of the state. Laissez les athee temps roulez! (Feel free to borrow that.)

  54. #54 BobC
    December 30, 2008

    Christian retards are not too good at understanding simple concepts like the establishment clause.

  55. #55 Kagehi
    December 30, 2008

    I have read most of the locals comments and I confess that I am baffled. What on earth is a community with so many cretins even doing with a library?

    Its like Moralton, without a library, where would the book burners get employment, so they could figure out which books to censor or burn?

  56. #56 michel
    December 30, 2008

    in one of the threads the display of the nativity scene is many times justified by claiming it has been there for almost 30 years… well, maybe it shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

    and that’s why i applaud the guy. religious people generally have no clue how intrusive religion is, so anyone that makes that clear to them, gets my vote.

  57. #57 OrbitalMike
    December 30, 2008

    With all due respect to the rational citizens in that part of Indiana, the reaction of the librarian and her fellow citizens of Elwood reminds me of the following incident that occurred in Marion, Indiana on August 7, 1930.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/78/ThomasShippAbramSmith.jpg

  58. #58 BobC
    December 30, 2008

    I know,I know,lets not be quiet anymore,stand up and be vocal,but hey,its some small town library nativity scene display,who cares?

    Christian retards will never stop trying to make America a theocracy if they are allowed to get away with minor violations of the Establishment Clause. The constitution must be respected. Absolutely no exceptions.

    The same Christian assholes who want to make a public library look like a church also want to force public school students to pray to Jeebus. They also want to suppress the teaching of modern biology. They need to be ridiculed and taken to court every time they try to get away with something.

  59. #59 vjack
    December 30, 2008

    Thanks so much for helping to spread the word about this, PZ!

  60. #60 BobC
    December 30, 2008

    Imagine being forced to listen to retards singing about Jeebus. It happened in Indiana in a government building.

    Two years ago the Christian theocrats of the Indiana state government were taken to court for singing “Just a Little Talk with Jesus”.

    JUDGE UPHOLDS PRAYER LIMITS IN IND. STATE HOUSE

    It was Clarence Brown’s energetic rendition of “Just a Little Talk With Jesus” that prompted several legislators to decide enough was enough. The Indiana Civil Liberties Union soon filed suit in the name of four people — a Quaker, a Methodist and two Catholics — to stop what critics considered an increasingly sectarian prayer practice.

    As Brown led the rollicking tune, some members and staffers clapped and sang along. Several others left the chamber.

  61. #61 Peckerwood Herring
    December 30, 2008

    Hmmm… I don’t know… it just isn’t me really.

    Elwood

  62. #62 Sherry
    December 30, 2008

    I live in an unusually tolerant part of the US.

    Everyday I congratulate myself for choosing to reside in a true paradise.

    Everyday I remind my children how lucky they are that their mother is so smart.

    It’s quite a jolt of reality to read the local comments on this story. I do not have the patience to live in such a community among those types of people.

    Nonetheless, I fully support the separation of church and state throughout the US. I will write a letter to the city attorney of Peckertown.

  63. #63 CJO
    December 30, 2008

    Everyday I remind my children how lucky they are that their mother is so smart.

    Maybe I should start reminding my son that he’s lucky neither of his parents is a narcissist.

  64. #64 Smidgy
    December 30, 2008

    Personally, I think the guy had no right to complain – as long as the Nativity scene was properly filed, in the ‘Fiction’ section.

  65. #65 Endor
    December 30, 2008

    “Maybe I should start reminding my son that he’s lucky neither of his parents is a narcissist.”

    Maybe I should start reminding my imaginary kids that they’re lucky they don’t have a humorless wet blanket for a parent.

  66. #66 CJO
    December 30, 2008

    Maybe I should start reminding my imaginary kids that they’re lucky they don’t have a humorless wet blanket for a parent.

    How would you know if they did?

  67. #67 PopeCoyote
    December 30, 2008

    As Laura and Stephen said, this doesn’t surprise me at all. Elwood is like something from the 20s or 30s. It is in the KKK hub of the U.S. When I was at grad school at Ball State, we had guys who were in the National Guard who would wear their uniforms but with black armbands and other additions called themselves National Guard “Special Forces” and were a KKK group. This guy who spoke up SHOULD be concerned for his and his family’s lives. There are reasonably rational folks there but there are some real scary ones too.

    BTW, the two nicknames I heard used for Elwood were ElwEEd (due to the rampant cannabis use there – so much for it mellowing folks out) or ElwAd (for a couple of different reasons and probably the ones you think). ::::shudder::::

  68. #68 DaveG
    December 30, 2008

    CJO,

    Narcissus could see only himself. Sherry seems to have a surfeit of self-esteem, not narcissism.

  69. #69 Josh
    December 30, 2008

    …but with black armbands and other additions called themselves National Guard “Special Forces” and were a KKK group.

    A rather unfortunate choice of phrasing, as those clowns should not be in any way confused with actual U.S. Army Special Forces operators that serve in one of the two National Guard SF groups.

  70. #70 Jadehawk
    December 30, 2008

    another example of how small towns are sooo much better equipped to deal with their problems *rolleyes*

    and in the defense of non-North Americans who don’t understand what the uproar is all about: I didn’t understand what Americans had against Christmas displays until moving here, either. The oddly suffocating atmosphere of “innocuous” displays etc. is very very hard to understand when you’re from a place in which “I’m a Catholic” is the cultural equivalent of an American saying “I’m Irish”.

    In reality though, it’s the slow rise of the number of those innocuous little things that is turning America into a Christian Nation. First there was God on money, then there was God in the pledge, then there was God in the national motto, and now it’s gotten to the point where he’s even become an employee of the Homeland Security Department :-/

    Yeah, it does look petty to fight those small little things… but it’s those small little things that create the impression of this being a Christian country, which it was never meant to be.

  71. #71 Dave
    December 30, 2008

    Not to be a spoil sport but who really cares about the occasional nativity scene? Can’t we just let them have the nativity scenes? Does it not make us just look like jerks for complaining about these things?

    Seriously, we should be more worried about state constitutions that require belief in God in order to run for office and not stupid dioramas of ancient myths that may show up occasionally in public buildings. Does this really harm us?

    A better solution is to demand equal space for a Beagle scene with Darwin or a Festivus pole or something. Demanding removal of nativity scenes is kinda petty, in my opinion.

  72. #72 Sanity Jane
    December 30, 2008

    OrbitalMike @ #57:

    PLEASE warn us when you post a link to such disturbing content. Historical perspective is a valuable thing, but that image is not something I would have willingly viewed had I had an inkling of its nature beforehand.

  73. #73 Nerd of Redhead
    December 30, 2008

    Dave,
    Thank you for your concern. Little things pile up into big things if not attended to. We need to attend to the little things in order to attack the big things.

  74. #74 Ted Powell
    December 30, 2008

    George #18:

    I guess two-bit peckerwood also could not stand the heat and moved the discussion thread on the city website about this story to a members only forum.

    According to the guy who owns the site:

    First of all vJack

    I am the owner of elwoodindiana.org. I don’t really care what you think about why I moved the thread. I run my website on a shared server which cannot allow the type of traffic I have been getting on that thread without crashing or exceeding my bandwidth limit. My website was designed as a blog site for the little town of Elwood. Thanks to the Herald Bulletin I am getting tons of traffic I don’t want or need, having to pay for the extra bandwidth and they didn’t even bother to use my name so ya I’m ticked. Your beef is not with my website but the librarian so please use the cashed version of the thread.

    Thank You
    Al Jordan

  75. #75 Ted Powell
    December 30, 2008

    Epinephrine #23: “I wish there were an edit button!”

    Well… There is a Preview button. It doesn’t render a comment in quite the same way as the Post button, but it’s generally close enough. Why some blogs don’t have Preview, I don’t understand–blogger choice? software deficiency?

  76. #76 Dave
    December 30, 2008

    “Little things pile up into big things if not attended to. We need to attend to the little things in order to attack the big things.”

    Yes. But, doesn’t this smack of the ineffective and brutal zero-tolerance policies? I’d agree that you can apply the slippery slope argument here, however, the “slippery slope” is also a fallacy. Apparently, this nativity scene has been displayed yearly since 1979. If that’s a slope, it sure isn’t very slippery.

    We shouldn’t be turning this whole thing into a Religion vs. Atheism situation when it really is a Religion vs. Reality problem. Atheists aren’t the adversaries of Religion, the truth is.

  77. #77 Monado
    December 30, 2008

    I read the comments in the cached version of the Elmwood discussion. The person who made the original complaint eventually spoke up. He stated that he was a professional librarian and made the appointment with the director to ask if it was appropriate for a library to display a nativity scene. He did not say that he was an atheist. He did not say that he was offended. Those were “embellishments” told by the director, who apparently went off the deep end and told him to stop complaining, and then gave his name and address to the newspaper.

  78. #78 OrbitalMike
    December 30, 2008

    My apologies to those sensitive to disturbing images (even if it’s almost 80 years old). I for one can not get that image out of my mind whenever I think of central Indiana and the KKK. It’s what happened before, and if we let our guard down, it’s what can happen again in our small quaint towns here in the good ole USA.

  79. #79 Monado
    December 30, 2008

    Sorry, Elwood.

  80. #80 Nerd of Redhead
    December 30, 2008

    Dave, Rudy Giuliani reduced crime in NYC by simply having the police deal with small crimes, instead of concentrating on the big crimes only. This caused a number of good things to occur. Once things started cleaning up, more small crimes were reported which reduced bigger crimes due to criminals not escalating. So by concentrating on nativity scenes that should either be accompanied by other seasonal displays, or not displayed at all, the overall climate will change for the better for us atheists.

  81. #81 Dave
    December 30, 2008

    “So by concentrating on nativity scenes that should either be accompanied by other seasonal displays …”

    I think that would have been the better way to approach this. By requesting that scenes from other religions and the inclusion of secular scenes, we expose the hypocrisy of these people. By simply demanding their removal, we just seem intolerant. I’m against religion as much as anybody here, and probably more than most. However, these people are just deluded and ignorant and they aren’t displaying the nativity scenes just to strike out at other religions or to atheists. I don’t this to turn into a situation where people start placing even more nativity scenes simply to get a rise out of atheists in order to further their own agendas. Look at how beautifully it works out in cases where other religions and atheists do demand equal space! :-)

  82. #82 Jadehawk
    December 30, 2008

    Dave, did you read my post before starting your Concerned Posting?

    The U.S.A. was a secular nation to begin with. Christmas didn’t exist, god wasn’t anywhere in the public sphere. Then Christmas became a federal holiday, then there was god on Money, then in the Pledge etc. It has already proven itself to be a slow slide into Gilead

    All of those, taken separately are not a problem. Together though, they’re the little tiny cracks in the Wall of Separation of Church and State that will eventually bring it down. Focusing on the big holes in the Wall is very important, but ignoring the small cracks is dangerous.

    consider it the political version of Death by a Thousand Cuts.

  83. #83 BobC
    December 30, 2008

    By simply demanding their removal, we just seem intolerant.

    So what? Why should anyone be tolerant of theocrats? I wouldn’t want my library to look like a church. Every time Christians are allowed to get away with something, they try something else. Anyone who respects our constitution should not suck up to them.

  84. #84 Jadehawk
    December 30, 2008

    Look at how beautifully it works out in cases where other religions and atheists do demand equal space! :-)

    that’s a joke, right? generally that results in the atheist versions being vandalized, stolen, or decried as hate-speech.

  85. #85 Robert
    December 30, 2008

    PZ – apparently they’re going to look into your recommendation: http://www.elwoodindiana.org/suggestion-elwood-indiana-pharyngula

    Nerd of Redhead @80 – The “no broken windows” theory of policing, as practised by Rudy Giuliani, is a myth. Check out Freakonomics, but the essence of it is that a large increase in police numbers, initiated by Rudy’s predecessor near the end of his term, accounted for most of the success. Rudy’s biggest achievement was moving the city’s emergency management centre into the only building on US soil ever targeted by foreign terrorists.

  86. #86 Nerd of Redhead
    December 30, 2008

    Dave, atheists who point out a nativity scene standing alone on public property are only pointing out the law of the land. Either there is total inclusion or no display. SCOT?US says so. Your concern is noted and rejected. Deal with it.

  87. #87 Nooutsidersposting;(
    December 30, 2008

    The country is whatever % Christian, sure. But that does not mean that we should start mingling church and state. There needs to be a hard and fast line between the two. If you blur the lines, by putting nativities in publicly funded building and whatever, it makes it easier to progressively blur the line farther. However, once that line is gone, it is gone. So lets imagine that this has happened. Now lets pretend that suddenly there is a huge rise in the Muslim in the country, with no line between church and state we could very soon find ourselves under Shria Law. Not cool for the average Christian. As far as Christmas being about Jesus, nope. It was a pagan holiday that was merged with Christianity. Look it up. Also, god on the money was done to help unite the north and south just before the civil war by Salmon P Chase, and under god was placed in the pledge to help distinguish Us from the dirty commies. It says in the constitution that the government shall not engage in any activity that promotes one religion over another, this falls into that category. And as far as christens being pushed around by the non-Christians, well that is about as stupid as whites complaining that African Americans are persecuting them. Get over you dumb persecution complex and realize that the bible is a work of literature and nothing else. God being born…how stupid.

  88. #88 C R S
    December 30, 2008

    Dave concerned trolled:

    I think that would have been the better way to approach this. By requesting that scenes from other religions and the inclusion of secular scenes, we expose the hypocrisy of these people.

    Please reread the account of the man who approached te librarian. According to him (and not the indignant hick librarian)he did not request its removal. He simply questioned its legality. For this he was maligned and dragged through the mud. The call for its removal has been advocated in these comments and understandably so, given the reaction and attitude of the librarian.
    I am originally from a small town in NW Arkansas and I can relate to the mentality of exclusion held by the bigoted majority. That mentality does not recognize inclusion. To them, it isn’t a matter of different beliefs; it’s a choice of Jebus or a demonic false doctrine. There is no reasoning with such people.

  89. #89 Leigh Williams
    December 30, 2008

    Outrageous. I myself would protest vigorously if I saw a nativity scene in a public library (not that I would here in Austin; our librarians are pros). I wouldn’t be “offended”, though; I’d be angry, because such displays are ILLEGAL. And a good thing, too.

    I have nothing against creches. On the contrary, we display, in our home, the creche I made myself. I LOVE creches . . . on private property or in our churches.

    Much worse than the Christian display on public property, however, was the gross breach of professional ethics on the part of the library. One of its employees posted not only the patron’s name and contact information, but also his “library history” (by which I presume is meant his circulation history). This is absolutely beyond the pale and is grounds for immediate termination. I should mention that I spent seven delightful years as head of library systems at a small university. The director of that library would have drawn and quartered an employee who had done such a thing. Not that it would have been possible; we scrubbed that data routinely.

    So, peckerwoods. Not just ignorant and insensitive, but actively evil.

  90. #90 plum grenville
    December 30, 2008

    This incident calls to mind a line from the women’s lib movement in the early 70’s. It was addressed to women who were trying to get their male partners to share the housework – women who were sometimes told or told themselves that it wasn’t worth making a fuss about:

    The strength of his resistance is a measure of your oppression.

    The strength of the antagonism this man has received is clear proof that his protest was vitally needed in this community.

  91. #91 Lost in Confusion
    December 30, 2008

    I found this on the website that revealed Mr. Wheeler’s library record:
    Ok All Members,
    I am putting out an ultimatum, there will be NO more talk as to the problems at the Elwood Library. This issue could come to legal decisions and we should not be having any more talk on the matter. If any one makes a statement in this area, be it for, against, or whatever, I will personally as an owner of this site remove that member from posting again. This has come to an end on this site.
    Have and say what you want but not on that subject. Everyone enjoy a joyous Happy New Year.
    Willkie Proud,
    ??????????
    Nancy Sumner did not send this message, but I believe Nancy is another owner of this particular site. As a member of this site, I can attest to the fact that the library’s director is also a member. Why she allowed her library employee to post Mr. Wheeler’s library record I don’t know. I also don’t know why she sat back and did nothing while Mr. Wheeler’s name was drug through the mud. But after reading this message to all members, Mr. Wheeler, I think you have their attention.

  92. #92 humbug!!!
    December 30, 2008

    WHAT?!?!?!?!? Sorry guys but I am way against this nativity thing….But when you bring the KKK thing up about Elwood…I have to speak up because for your information this kind of activity hasn’t been around Elwood for sometime and if you take a closer look there are more and more blacks there and mixed children around the town also…Come on people get a GRIP!!!!!!

  93. #93 Twin-Skies
    December 30, 2008

    Would it have killed the library staff to at least try to be polite and patient with dealing with the dude?

    Yeesh – talk about overreacting. I can see why a lot of Christians there in the US get a lot of flack – with the way they make an issue out of just about anything remotely related to them, they go cry “Persecution!”

    Idiots.

  94. #94 Elwood
    December 31, 2008

    The people on this site are very judgemental. Most of you probably don’t even know where Elwood, IN is, let alone know any of the people that reside there. Just because you’ve read a few posts on one or two message boards most of you have decided that all of the people in Elwood are cretins, morons, idiots, ignorant, insensitive and actively evil. This is so far from the truth that it’s amusing.

    As for the KKK, you really know nothing about that either. If you did you would know that the KKK isn’t in
    Elwood anymore and that the majority of the citizens didn’t want them there in the first place.

  95. #95 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 31, 2008

    The people on this site are very judgemental. Most of you probably don’t even know where Elwood, IN is, let alone know any of the people that reside there. Just because you’ve read a few posts on one or two message boards most of you have decided that all of the people in Elwood are cretins, morons, idiots, ignorant, insensitive and actively evil. This is so far from the truth that it’s amusing.

    No no. Not all of Elwood, just the people who are actors in this situation. Those of the library and the town who are acting the way they are.

    Are you one of them?

  96. #96 Janine, Vile Bitch
    December 31, 2008

    Well, someone is quite defensive. And thank you for confirming what Tony said at #50; It should come as no surprise that Elwood was, if I remember correctly, the home of the Indiana state chapter of the KKK.

    I just want to say that Nancy Sumners sounds like a peach of a person. I am so grateful that she was so nice.

    If you took the time to read the comments here, some of the people ripping on the actions of the library are from Indiana.

    There is a serious problem there, they are breaking federal laws. Though reading through the links, it seems that some of the residents of Elwood have trouble understanding this. So instead of being so pissy about an embarrassing story, resolve it so that outsiders do not have a reason to point and say “tisk, tisk”.

  97. #97 Teleprompter
    December 31, 2008

    Hey, what do you know? Elwood’s in Pharyngula.

    I’ve grown up in Indiana. My father grew up in Elwood…eventually he got his (wait for it) MLS (Master of Library Science). ;)

    I haven’t spent much time in Elwood myself, since his family left there long before I was born. However, I am sure that while a lot of what you’re saying applies, not all the people in Elwood are morons, cretins, etc.

    The KKK hasn’t been in Elwood for years, that’s one thing I can tell you.

    I support the man who questioned the nativity display. Just please quit oversimplifying and saying that everyone in Elwood or Indiana or small towns is stupid or intolerant.

    We can all appreciate this, yes?

  98. #98 Patricia, OM
    December 31, 2008

    Elwood – I’m a Kentucky hillbilly. I think I know about the KKK, and dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

  99. #99 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 31, 2008

    Just please quit oversimplifying and saying that everyone in Elwood or Indiana or small towns is stupid or intolerant.

    We can all appreciate this, yes?

    100% yes.

  100. #100 Elwood
    December 31, 2008

    I live in Elwood. I’m also a Christian, but I do not agree with how our library and the library staff have handled this situation with Mr. Wheeler at all. When this situation first came up the YMCA, which is located next door to the library, offered to display the nativity scene in their case. The library director did not accept their offer and instead decided to break the law and display the nativity scene until the day after Christmas. Why they decided to go this route I have no idea.

  101. #101 Janine, Vile Bitch
    December 31, 2008

    Elwood, I think we can all agree that Nancy Sumner bungled the situation. And here is hoping that people like you can work to make sure that the nativity scene is hosted in a private building instead of a public one.

  102. #102 Wowbagger
    December 31, 2008

    Why they decided to go this route I have no idea.

    Well, I’ll hazard a guess and say it’s because they’re arrogant, sanctimonious pissants who believe that belonging to a certain religion means they can flout the laws of the land.

  103. #103 clinteas
    December 31, 2008

    @ 49,

    You’ve moved from being boring and repetitive to advocating for a society where the majority rule via threat of harm. Nice. Christian paradise indeed.

    Morality fail.
    Democracy fail.

    Matey,if you dont like my comments,dont read them,there’s the killfile,its that simple.

    Basic reading comprehension FAIL
    Malevolence and ad hominems PASS
    Brain inside skull vault DOUBTFUL

  104. #104 BMcP
    December 31, 2008

    I doubt if anyone is actually physically in danger from this and I suspect there is more to the story. I am curious if the individual lodged a protest with civility or elected to make a big, emotional scene in his outrage. I have learned often people react far more passionately to the latter. I feel we are seeing distortion of the facts on both sides we may never know the exact truth on how all this went down because everyone wants to be play the victim and paint the other side as the “bad guys”, so unless there was a audio/video recording of the whole incident, I using a whole tablespoon of salt to take when it comes to a “he said, she said” blog story. As for people’s boisterous blowhard comments on the community forum… Internet, ’nuff said.

    By mid-January it will all fade from memory anyway when they put up all the MLK day stuff.

  105. #105 Epinephrine
    December 31, 2008

    Epinephrine #23: “I wish there were an edit button!”

    Well… There is a Preview button. It doesn’t render a comment in quite the same way as the Post button, but it’s generally close enough. Why some blogs don’t have Preview, I don’t understand–blogger choice? software deficiency?

    Ironically, I *did* preview it – and that’s when I realised I hadn’t capitalised Pastafarian, Jewish, and Muslim, and hastily stuck capital letters on – in my haste carrying the P over two words. I hit “post”, and immediately saw that I had mis-typed, but I hadn’t expected to make a mistake when capitalising a few words.

    As to all the comments about right to display, thanks so much – especially to CalGeorge for posting the excerpt from the Library Bill of Rights. I agree that the library should have been asked to put up a Pastafarian, atheist, or other holiday decoration, as failing to do so would seal the matter. I feel a little more educated now :)

  106. #106 cthulhu
    December 31, 2008

    I think the funniest comment there was the woman who claimed god punished her husband for asking what’s the big deal by forcing him to lose 2 credit cards

  107. #107 John Lofton
    December 31, 2008

    “Church” & “state” must be separated because Scripture says so. But, God & government must NEVER be separated because such a separation results in the kind of mess we have now –Godless government!

    John Lofton, Editor
    TheAmericanView.com
    Recovering Republican’
    JLof@aol.com

  108. #108 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 31, 2008

    “Church” & “state” must be separated because Scripture says so. But, God & government must NEVER be separated because such a separation results in the kind of mess we have now –Godless government!

    What a worthless comment. What’s wrong with a government sans the meddling of the religion?

    This is much more enlightening.

    Nothwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Gov’ & Religion neither can be duly supported: Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst.. And in a Gov’ of opinion, like ours, the only effectual guard must be found in the soundness and stability of the general opinion on the subject. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Gov will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together – James Madison

  109. #109 Nerd of Redhead
    December 31, 2008

    “Church” & “state” must be separated because Scripture says so. But, God & government must NEVER be separated because such a separation results in the kind of mess we have now –Godless government!

    What an inane statement. The Bush administration was soaked in gawd, and that caused all the problems.
    There is a perception that godless mean no ethics or morals. Since god doesn’t exist, all ethics and morals have been decided by man since hominids evolved. Atheists and humanists tend to use the golden rule, which appears to be totally ignored by the gawd soaked, as a basis for moral and ethics. And the morals and ethics that result tend to be fair and applied to all, as all laws should. Unlike the arbitrary gawd derived laws.

  110. #110 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 31, 2008

    Nerd you have to understand who that’s coming from as well.

    Mr. Lofton, if that is him and I’m pretty sure it is… well. Just check his link.

  111. #111 Nerd of Redhead
    December 31, 2008

    Rev., it’s either a Poe or right wingnut site. I’m not very good detecting Poes.

  112. #112 Sastra
    December 31, 2008

    John Lofton #107 wrote:

    “Church” & “state” must be separated because Scripture says so. But, God & government must NEVER be separated because such a separation results in the kind of mess we have now –Godless government!

    This is a fine example of a tactic used by U.S. theocrats to slide their agenda past the Constitution. They will claim that they agree with the separation of church and state, and insist that they want to keep religion out of our government. But you can’t separate God from the State — or anything else!

    Say what? This seems like a contradiction. What can they possibly mean?

    They mean that God’s existence is an uncontrovertible, noncontroversial, universally-established fact. Because God is real, everyone knows that God exists. Even atheists know it, deep down. Religions then are “man’s imperfect way of trying to bring God down to his level.” Churches are man-made institutions. But the clear, obvious, and direct experience of God bypasses all that human error.

    These are the people who insist they don’t have a religion — they have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” And they are close cousins to the folks who tell you that religion distorts God — but “spirituality” is what happens when you open yourself to God. Both groups will, with perfect sincerity, inform you that the other group distorts God according to their own selves, but that, unlike the others, they “let God be God.”

    Really? You mean you’re the one doing that? Oh, how nice to get the whole mess sorted out for everyone. Other people may claim that ‘God is on their side’ — but now we’ve found someone who is on God’s side. This makes it easy to avoid the middle man problem and find out what God wants, doesn’t it?

    This tactic is similar to the one creationists use, when they say they don’t want creationism or intelligent design taught in schools — oh no — they just want the problems with evolution brought out in science class.

    Now we can tell that religion & church = God, and creationism = ‘problems with evolution,’ but I’m not sure if they always can. Or, if they can and do, they think the public is stupid enough to be fooled by this verbal sleight-of-hand.

  113. #113 phantomreader42
    December 31, 2008

    BMcP @ #104:

    I doubt if anyone is actually physically in danger from this and I suspect there is more to the story. I am curious if the individual lodged a protest with civility or elected to make a big, emotional scene in his outrage. I have learned often people react far more passionately to the latter. I feel we are seeing distortion of the facts on both sides we may never know the exact truth on how all this went down because everyone wants to be play the victim and paint the other side as the “bad guys”, so unless there was a audio/video recording of the whole incident, I using a whole tablespoon of salt to take when it comes to a “he said, she said” blog story. As for people’s boisterous blowhard comments on the community forum… Internet, ’nuff said.

    IRRELEVANT

    Government endorsement of religion is explicitly forbidden by the United States Constitution. The library, being a publicly owned, operated, and funded organization, is acting as a part of the government. To display an explicitly christian nativity scene on public property without allowing equal representation for ANY display is illegal. It remains illegal regardless of who points it out, or why, or when, or where, or whether they do it in person, or by phone, or by mail, rudely or politely, singly or in groups, etc, etc, etc. Even if the person making the complaint was naked except for a lampshade, drunk out of his skull, and screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs it would have made no difference whatsoever to the legality of the display. Governmental agencies are not allowed to use public property to promote religion. Period.

    A citizen complained about this illegal act on the library’s part, as is the right of all citizens under the First Amendment. In retaliation, an employee of the library released this person’s private information to the public. This is wrong. It remains wrong no matter what he did. It is a violation of professional ethics, basic common decency, and the laws of the state of Indiana. What the victim of this unauthorized and criminal disclosure did is wholly irrelevant to the matter. I use the term “victim” because he is, legally, the victim of a crime. His personal information was improperly disclosed to the public, and this should not have happened. The person who did it should be fired, and prosecuted. This remains true no matter how rude or how civil the victim was. It remains true regardless of the nature or validity of the victim’s complaint, regardless of who delivered the complaint, or how, or when, or why, etc, etc, etc.

    The library is clearly, unequivocally, in the wrong. This is not a gray area. They broke the law. Then they retaliated against a citizen who pointed out they were breaking the law by breaking the law again.

    And as to whether or not anyone is physically in danger, religious nuts have been known to murder people over the most trivial things. If there is any violence as a result of this, the blood is on the hands of the criminal library employee who illegally released private information. And that disclosure remains illegal regardless of whether or not the victim is endangered as a result.

  114. #114 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 31, 2008

    Rev., it’s either a Poe or right wingnut site. I’m not very good detecting Poes.

    Oh, Mr. Lofton is unfortunately far from Poe. He’s been around for a long time singing the praises of Right Wing extremism and was a Presidential Candidate for the …ahem… Constitution Party.

    He even got his ass handed to him by Frank Zappa on Crossfire back in the 80’s.

  115. #115 Nerd of Redhead
    December 31, 2008

    the …ahem… Constitution Party.

    Dang it Rev., that burned out another fuse on my irony meter. Sigh, time to order another gross of fuses. That might last a month.

  116. #116 Rey Fox
    December 31, 2008

    “But, God & government must NEVER be separated”

    What does this even mean? And which god are we talking about?

    How about if we just let “God” take care of himself and his business? I’m sure he’s fully capable. Boy, if there were a god, then he must sure be getting tired of every pissant with an axe to grind dragging his name into their every dirty business.

    “He even got his ass handed to him by Frank Zappa on Crossfire back in the 80’s.”

    That John Lofton? That sputtering jackass? Yeah, I’ll take his advice on how to govern as soon as I start reading tea leaves.

  117. #117 wildthang1971
    December 31, 2008

    they persecuted GOD and NOW they do us for believing in God it will never end..GOD is everywhere on our money in our courthouses..Fear for there safety what about the 90 people who signed there names to not have it removed…My child has been threatened for speaking out to what she believes as well as me and my hubby…I do personally feel sorry for Mr. Wheeler I do realize it offended him but did he realize it offended us by taking it down it is a tradition for 30 years…and Now someone says somethings…I heard that other states and other towns are having the same problems with what we are fighting to keep… for some it is religion but for others it is a tradition…This town had already lost its light display this year and then this..

    After talking to a atheist I understand more where they come from..science plays key roles in alot of things…it was interesting and a pleasure to have had this conversation
    however it did not change my mind about GOD..

  118. #118 Nerd of Redhead
    December 31, 2008

    it is a tradition for 30 years.

    Whenever I hear that, I am reminded that tradition is the best reason for doing things, but also the worst. Take my field, chemistry. If a process has worked for thirty years, it will likely work for another thirty. So tradition says keep things as they are. But, by examining the process and the reasons for doing things, improvements may be made so that waste is minimized, and yield and purity improved. So staying with tradition can cost money.

    The same is true with this case. At the time this was started, it was legal to just put up nativity scenes. SCOTUS later said this was illegal on public property, which a Library is. So the once legal became illegal. So tradition constantly needs to be examined in light of new evidence to see if it should be continued. In this case, the nativity scene should either have been pulled, or the area made avail to anyone who wish to display something consistent with this time of the year. The library failed to examine the tradition and why it was done, so it got caught with it proverbial pants around its ankles.

  119. #119 Steve_C
    December 31, 2008

    Tax money cannot support religion. It’s against the law. Nothing bad happens when your little displays are taken down.

    Go put them up in your yard or church parking lot. That’s where it belongs.

  120. #120 Diagoras
    December 31, 2008

    Wildthang1971 –

    You aren’t being persecuted. I suggest you research the meaning of that word before slinging it about. All that is happening is a fellow townsperson of Elwood is asking about the constitutionality of the display of a Christian symbol in a government building. No one is demanding that you scrape the six bumper stickers proclaiming your love of Jesus from your car. Nor are they confiscating the earmarked copies of your bible. They aren’t absconding with your I-heart-God sweatshirt collection. Nor are they demanding you stop homeschooling your cadre of younglings. They aren’t crushing the beloved (by you) nativity display with a hammer and baking it into bread.

    All that’s happening is one guy is questioning the legality of a display in the public library. He isn’t shutting your church down or defrocking your pastor. He’s questioning why a secular, public institution seems to be favoring one religion – Christianity – over the multitudes of faiths, or the lack of faith in any such gods. There are other cases that would make a home for the display. YMCA next door offered. If you would rather the door be open for every faith or iteration of lack in that department to have a bit of space in your library – I hope you really enjoy Fred Phelps’ little diorama-of-hate in your town next winter. And heck – Elwood isn’t that far of a drive for me – I wouldn’t mind getting all manner of creative with popsickle sticks, glue, and my brand of irreverence. And unlike Mr. Wheeler – I really don’t mind offending you. I’d love to see the little hamster wheel in your mind go all-asploady while you try to demand that your brand of crazy is the only one the good people of Elwood should tolerate. While you try to demand it, and are filled with ten shades of fail.

  121. #121 Jadehawk
    December 31, 2008

    they persecuted GOD and NOW they do us for believing in God it will never end..GOD is everywhere on our money in our courthouses..

    incoherent rambling aside, THIS is exactly why the little things cannot stand. and why it’s not petty and stupid to complain about them. every innocuous little transgression that isn’t pointed out because “it’s just not worth it” is used as a justification for another and another and another. it’s not a slippery slope fallacy when the existence of the slope is evidenced by 100 years of steady undermining of the Separation of Church and State.

  122. #122 CRS
    December 31, 2008

    GOD is everywhere on our money

    Bitch, please. “In DOG we trust” was not added to U.S. bills until 1954 in reaction to the Red scare. It first appeared on coins in 1864 at the request of a Baptist minister. Please Google “establishment clause”. Theodore Roosevelt felt it was blasphemous to mix DOG with something as earthly as money.

    did he realize it offended us by taking it down it is a tradition for 30 years

    Slavery had a long history and was considered a traditional right in the south , so do you advocate the traditional owning of your fellow human beings? No? Thank DOG, but it’s our history. How about segregation, which is even more recent and longstanding. Still no? How positively un-American of you! Thirty years is nothing when discussing traditions vs. constitutional rights. Cover your house in a million lights. It’s your right.

    My child has been threatened for speaking out to what she believes as well as me and my hubby

    If true this is very sad. As a gay man growing up in a very, very Xtian southern town I was constantly harassed and threatened for my sin. Sucks, no?
    My beloved grandmother almost disowned me for claiming I did not believe in DOG. I had a town of 10,000 turn against me while they sat in church praising their delusion while smugly “knowing” I was wrong. I am told to this day that I am a second-class citizen, thanks to the Word of DOG. Sorry if I have a hard time sympathizing with your persecution complex.
    As soon as Xtianity was granted recognition by the bloodthirsty Constantine, the Xtians wasted no time in becoming persecutors in the extreme. That included other Xtians. Author Jonathan Kirch, in “DOG against the DOGS” echoes the belief of some historians that more Xtian’s died at each others hands over differences in doctrine than were killed in all prior persecutions combined. Religion of peace, indeed.

    science plays key roles in alot of things

    This issue has nothing to do with science or atheism, but with the U.S. being a secular nation. I think you are missing the point.

    it was interesting and a pleasure to have had this conversation

    Um, DOG damns all liars

    however it did not change my mind about GOD..

    I don’t think anyone tried. The point was about constitutionality, not your personal beliefs.

    Lastly, to which DOG do your refer? I’m fond of Priapus myself. Sorry, but I’m a size queen.

    Bitch, please.

  123. #123 Nadia Williams
    December 31, 2008

    I know! I know! Next Christmas, let’s all sugar down to Elwood and go with the flow of their idea of religious freedom in the public library! We can have a display up for the FSM, Krishna, Vishnu, Buddha, the Mysterious Teapot in the Sky, Baal, The Dagda, Danu, Zeus, Hilal, Quetzelcoatl, Poseidon, Apollo, Aegir, Mannanan Mac Lir, Nuada, Lugh, Morrigan (depending on your views, she might need three displays as she might be three people… sound familiar?), Teshub, Thor, Taranis, Vayu, Anemoi, Ouranos, Neptune, Osiris, Torngasoak, Marduk, Atum, El, Shiva, Kamui, Airmid, Unkulunkulu, Izanagi…

    Will anyone still be able to fit in the door by the time we’ve got the homages to all these up? There are thousands more, we can just carry on until there’s this overflow right into the streets, until the library’s open-minded homage to religious freedom piles up to obscure every structure in the town and GAINS WORLDWIDE FAME!

    Or this American town could just, you know, obey what seems to be American law and not display a religious thing in a public building.

    But my vote goes for the display to every god there is, that will be so much more FUN!

    Hahahahaha!

  124. #124 Nerd of Redhead
    December 31, 2008

    But my vote goes for the display to every god there is, that will be so much more FUN!
    Hahahahaha!

    I love the way you think. Two thumbs up.

  125. #125 Diagoras
    December 31, 2008

    I completely call dibs on the Coyote display. Best of the trickster gods. And he will totally send his furry minions to consume your house-pet.

  126. #126 C R S
    January 1, 2009

    I will happily contribute my statuette of Priapus.

  127. #127 Nadia Williams
    January 1, 2009

    CRS – Priapus, hahahahahahaha! Man, can you imagine what they’ll do if that is displayed in the library?

  128. #128 raven
    January 1, 2009

    Massive confusion:

    they persecuted GOD and NOW they do us for believing in God it will never end..GOD is everywhere on our money in our courthouses.

    God should be able to take care of himself. The last time he got annoyed with us, he covered the earth miles deep in water and killed the entire earth’s population except for 8 people.

    As an omniscient, all powerful, supernatural being, surely he should be able to do anything he wants. Including turning the complaining citizen into a frog.

    If he isn’t an omniscient, omnipotent being with vast supernatural powers,….why call him god?

    I haven’t seen god in our courthouse, just a bunch of people and a clock in a tower on top. As far as I know, my county has never allowed sectarian religious displays on public property. There are many in people’s yards, churches, and in shopping malls. The world hasn’t ended yet.

  129. #129 wildthang1971
    January 2, 2009

    First of all I didn’t say I was a Christian..Second of all I dont attend chruch right now and haven’t since ..oh man along time…I have children of different faiths..they practice something different than my faith and I respect them for it…I am not bothering people about there religion in no way…I signed the paper because of it being a tradition NOT because it was religious…And I dont home school my child, she goes to public school,I don’t wear long skirts and carry a bible everywhere I go and I don’t preach on the bible.
    And the atheist I talked to was a friend of the families,I am interested in all religions..And I never said I was fighting for RELIGION..
    I didn’t know those things couldn’t be put in public place until after I signed it however I SIGNED IT FOR TRADITION…NOT RELIGION…
    I have not bad mouthed no one and I have not attention of doing so either…I am learning things as this all goes on..
    About state and church..ok..
    I was hoping by coming here I get more info on things than just one sided debate..but ALL I HAVE GOTTEN HERE IS THE SAME RUDE TALK HERE AS WELL…
    Now can you please explain things to me without being so rude about it..I admit I just got my GED in JULY of 2008 because I was raising my children and working…I am not from Elwood I have been there for 6 1/2 years since my daughter was born I went into early labor whileing visting a friend here and we just stayed there is alot of things about this town I dont understand but I am learning…
    So with that can you please explain things to me in a nonrude way so I understand what you Are trying to say…

  130. #130 wildthang1971
    January 2, 2009

    And I see no reason why other religious things can’t be placed in the library display cases…I BELIEVE THE LIBRARY IS A PLACE FOR KNOWLEDGE ALL KNOWLEDGE NOT JUST ONE

  131. #131 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 2, 2009

    Very Simple WIld Thing. The Establishment claus in teh First Amendment prohibits teh government (including goverment institutions like Libraries) from promoting any religion.

    Having the display violates that.

    Should the library choose to display religious symbols and decorations for any and all other religions then it wouldn’t be promoting one religion.

    But that would get ridiculous so the prudent thing is to no display any.

    There are plenty of churches around for the display of Christian symbolism.

  132. #132 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 2, 2009

    Holy Typos.

    KoT

  133. #133 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 2, 2009

    I have to rewite that to correct that horrible mess

    Very Simple WIld Thing. The Establishment clause in the First Amendment prohibits the government (including government institutions like Libraries) from promoting any religion.

    Having the display violates that.

    Should the library choose to display religious symbols and decorations for any and all other religions then it wouldn’t be promoting one religion.

    But that would get ridiculous so the prudent thing is to not display any.

    There are plenty of churches around for the display of Christian symbolism.

  134. #134 Nerd of Redhead
    January 2, 2009

    wildthang1971, traditions must examined regularly. Most people don’t do that. Which can make “we have always done it that way” to sound stupid. Traditions should be examined for a few things like: Why was this started? Is it still serving the same purpose today? Has any outside things, like the law, changed to make this inappropriate? Would anything else be more appropriate?

    In the case of the nativity scene in the Elwood library, the third question is the key. The law changed. Therefore, the fourth question must be addressed. Then the answer comes out that either the nativity scene is removed, or that area becomes a place for all religions, including those not widely accepted, to display their season objects.

  135. #135 wildthang1971
    January 2, 2009

    there is a budda statue displayed there as well has been there for long time as well but no one protests that…is that a religious symbol… or did you know it was there or not there are other statues there as well…
    just a question budda is there all the time…
    and thank you I understand the state and church thing now.
    and thank you for not being so rude with your comments

  136. #136 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 2, 2009

    there is a budda statue displayed there as well has been there for long time as well but no one protests that…is that a religious symbol… or did you know it was there or not there are other statues there as well…

    Do you have a source to support that?

  137. #137 wildthang1971
    January 2, 2009

    yes I seen it there I can get pictures of it…I go to the library there every week to get books and twice for my little so she can get books to read…Truthly I am surprized no one every said anything about it now! it amazes me all everyone is talking about is the navitity scene..when there are others…if you live in this town and protesting the scene why arent you protesting the budda and the other statues of religion there….I live here…do you if you do go look around really look around…

  138. #138 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 2, 2009

    I agree, it has no place there either.

    But I’d like you to provide evidence of this.

  139. #139 Patricia, OM
    January 2, 2009

    Is #137 attempting to write in English?

  140. #140 Nerd of Redhead
    January 2, 2009

    Yep, the key word is “attempting”. Appears to be stream of consciousness rather than formal sentences.

  141. #141 Nerd of Redhead
    January 2, 2009

    If there is a statue of Buddha, I wonder what other statues might be displayed in the Library. Context is very important for these things.

  142. #142 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 2, 2009

    Is #137 attempting to write in English?

    Knowing my continued failings in human keyboard interaction, I let it slide. But it was a bit difficult to parse.

  143. #143 wildthang1971
    January 2, 2009

    Excuse my typing. I am not from Elwood. I am from St. Louis MO. I didn’t get the proper education cause I was raising children after my hubby left me with 5 kids. I have one at home now and just recently got my GED in July of 2008. Not a good typer infact I peck type. I got new laptop and sometimes not always I get in a hurry and type to fast.

  144. #144 Brownian, OM
    January 2, 2009

    I…just recently got my GED in July of 2008.

    Congratulations! My sister got her high school diploma eleven years after originally dropping out and raising my nephew as a single mother, and went on to earn a diploma from a technical college and even scored a scholarship and an award or two, so I have some idea of how hard and rewarding it can be as an adult student.

    You should be proud of yourself.

  145. #145 Josh
    January 2, 2009

    I have one at home now and just recently got my GED in July of 2008.

    Congratulations on continuing your education. That’s absolutely terrific. Well done.

  146. #146 Nerd of Redhead
    January 2, 2009

    Wildthang, don’t worry about typos. The Rev. BDC is also known as King of Typos, and I appear to be studying to be his replacement when he abdicates the throne. (Here’s hoping it’s a long understudy.)

    I used to teach prep. chemistry at a University in a previous career. I always admired the older students. They generally started out slow, but finished well. And they weren’t afraid to talk to me if they needed help.

  147. #147 wildthang1971
    January 4, 2009

    Thank you all for the great comments. It made me feel great.

  148. #148 hery
    January 25, 2010

    I also heard them talk about the residents of Elwood.

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