Recently, New York state senator Andrew Lanza took issue with a billboard in New York City’s Times Square that expressed the sentiment that Christmas can be celebrated without Christ. The billboard was placed in the popular tourist destination by American Atheists, a group that advocates for the protection of the rights of non-believers, atheists, agnostics, and other members of the secular community.
Specifically, Mr. Lanza described the organization as an “intolerant and hateful”. He goes on further to say that:
“Not only do the people behind this group not believe in God but they obviously don’t believe in decency, civility and kindness to fellow human kind either. This is part of a continued “War on Christmas” and also upon the belief and value system of millions of Christian, Jewish and Muslim people who have faith in God. Religious persecution of the kind that similarly lead to the Holocaust began with small evil baby steps of ridicule and hatred of the religious beliefs of others.”
Mr. Lanza went on to ask residents of and tourists visiting the city to boycott Times Square as a sign of protest against the billboard’s message.
What struck me about Mr. Lanza’s tone was that it is reminiscent of the very tone that Adolf Hitler used to highlight and target Jews in Germany, making a minority of people out to be a threat to society. Nothing could have been further from the truth. History’s unfortunate lesson was that the failure of the German people to avoid this hateful narrative led to the murder of millions of innocents. This is why groups like American Atheists,The Freedom from Religion Foundation, and Black Nonbelievers exist, so that someone steps up and protects the rights of nonbelievers when they come under vicious attack by members of the state.
The Andrew Lanzas and Rick Santorums of the world concern me for that reason. They can use their considerable platforms in attempts to abridge our human right to free thought and constitutional right to free speech. What part of the Constitution do they not understand? Mr. Lanza’s call for American Atheists’ 501(c)(3) status to be revoked shows that he respects the establishment of religion, that he would put religion and religious belief in a position superior to non-religious views and non-belief. If anyone is being malicious, it is Mr. Lanza.