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Gazette Premium Content EDITORIAL: Humanists indulge heartless intolerance of Christian mom

The Gazette editorial Published: March 16, 2014

Most atheists are decent people who lack belief in God. They obey the law and instill morality in their kids. The majority live and let live, tolerating friends and neighbors who embrace Jesus, Allah, Buddha or any number of religious deities and beliefs.

A minority of atheists misuse their philosophy as a weapon against those who do not share their belief in an absence of God. They wage war against free expression. They don't like crosses and statues, so they banish them from view. They force landscapes of emptiness upon everyone else, because that's what they prefer to see.

Their latest assault on the First Amendment, which protects free speech and religion, is downright heartless, selfish and cruel.

The conflict involves two makeshift crosses on the side of a road in Southern California where Ann Marie Devaney's teenage son was hit and killed by an SUV. Memorials of this nature are a tradition in civilized societies that respect human life and fellow humans suffering in grief. Those who take offense have the right to look away. They have the option to harbor bigotry toward people with different values and beliefs. They have a right to think only of themselves when seeing the symbol of another person's loss.

But one of these mean-spirited individuals was not satisfied with turning away. When he saw Devaney's modest expression, he set out to destroy it. The offended party enlisted assistance of the American Humanist Association, one of multiple organizations determined to establish disbelief by using government force to stop expressions of belief. The association wrote to the Lake Elsinore City Council and said local government violated the Constitution by tolerating a Christian expression on public property.

The argument stands no honest scrutiny. The First Amendment prohibits Congress from making laws respecting an establishment of religion. It's an extraordinary stretch to suggest that allowing a mother to place a cross on public right-of-way equals passage of a law that establishes religion. The First Amendment also prohibits governments from interfering with the free exercise of religion, even on public space. That's why cops don't stop preachers who proselytize on government sidewalks or presidents who invoke "God" while speaking from the White House. This country was founded to provide a massive free-speech zone, encompassing private and public property, in which all would tolerate the sights and sounds of religious belief.

Probably because city officials hate these controversies, the City Council responded to the complaint by ordering removal of the small crosses. Devaney, not wanting to burden her community, put up no fuss and quietly removed them. It made her sad.

"It's like I'm losing my son again," the woman told a NBC affiliate.

Thankfully, the rest of the community didn't accept the Humanist Association's oppressive tactics. A group of protesters placed six additional crosses on the ground just moments after Devaney removed two. One new cross told the humanists to "get a life." Another asked "what happened to our freedom?" A third asked "what if he was your child?"

We ask the humanists: Where's your compassion for fellow humans?

Among those who defended Devaney's memorial was Laurie Howanec, mother of the teen driver who accidentally killed Devaney's son.

"That's their memorial," she said. "That's where they go to grieve."

Anti-religion bullies weaken free speech with each petty assault. In this case, in a despicable display of intolerance, they begged City Hall for less decency and compassion toward a mom mourning her son. Is nothing sacred? It's hard to see how such behavior improves our world.

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