Our city has had issues with the KKK putting a cross on our Fountain Square downtown to represent the Christian community during Christmas when the Jewish community put up a Menorah. It was awful. It was embarrassing. It did not represent my Christian beliefs. It made the national news. And I mean the KKK cross, not the Menorah. I was totally cool with the Menorah, which was right next to the Christmas tree. I would have been ok with a cross from a church or other loving community, but NOT the KKK. I did not go downtown, though, and try to knock down the cross. I did not go threaten the KKK members who stood protecting the cross because all the pissed off people were going there to try to remove it from it's place. I did speak out against it to anyone who would listen.
There have been riots brought on by racial issues that make national news. We've been in national news due to Larry Flynt and his Hustler stores which currently conduct business in our city and his past legal issues with the city in the 1970's. We have groups like Citizens for Community Values who often go up against Stonewall Cincinnati, an organization for the GLBT community.
Well, this week has really sent me over the edge. Earlier this week, heading into downtown, you could see this sign:
If you can't read it, it says, "Don't Believe in God? You are not alone." It is sponsored and paid for by an organization named CCoR - Cincinnati Coalition of Reason. The reason for the sign? "The point of our national billboard campaign is to reach out to the millions of humanists, atheists and agnostics living in the United States," explained the national director of the National Coalition of Reason. When I saw him interviewed on the news, I could NOT believe there were not protestors shouting in the background about "hell and damnation". Then the reporter said the sign had only been up for five hours. Ahhh, that explains it.
Notice that up there I used the word COULD. Fast forward to today. The sign is having to be relocated to the other side of downtown due to threatening phone calls and e-mails to the landlord of the building that holds the sign. (I'm not sure what good that will do, won't there just be threats from folks over there?) I am ok with the fact that people don't agree with the sign. I am ok with people speaking out against the sign - picketing, prayer vigils, shouting from the rooftops. I am ok with people speaking out to support the sign. Freedom of speech goes both ways and it is a protected right in this country. However, when one tries to use that "free speech" to threaten the owner of the building, then the religious community has once again used their beliefs as a weapon instead of way to build communities and bridges to connect to others who have different values and beliefs.
I am not an atheist. I do have many atheist friends and even some family members. I am not at all threatened or offended by this sign. It does not sway my belief in God. My atheist friends/family do not sway my beliefs. In fact, I find it interesting and enlightening to hear their thoughts and reasons, even if I don't agree. And I do NOT understand why a community would think that this sign warrants threatening phone calls, e-mails and notes to a landlord. What kind of religion thinks THAT is ok? What a pathetic example of God's love. In fact, this behavior is right up there with the KKK cross as far as I am concerned.
(Someday, I will try to write about the good things about this city!)