Brett Lider | Wikimedia Commons | Text added by Dan
I love that headline above. It’s on a blog post about yours truly, out there on the interwebs somewhere, where a bunch of humorless crank nonbelievers are highly irritated by last Thursday’s column.
Granted, it wasn’t the greatest column in the world. It was aimed at the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors and all the hand-wringing they’re doing over opening their meetings with sectarian prayer.
The goal was to point out that that all the board is doing, by generating publicity over this, is HELPING an outfit of nonbelievers raise more money and grow in influence. Had the Giles County School Board and Pittsylvania County Board of acceded to reasonable requests to halt sectarian influence in government, the whole issue would have gone away. That’s what Roanoke City Council did years ago.
Instead, the RoCo Board of Supes are acting in a manner to help the Freedom From Religion Foundation raise money. A friend of mine in Roanoke County who is an atheist joined the FFRF after the story broke.
But I came at it from a sideways perspective, which is a risky thing. Humor is a risky thing, too, as Ed Brayton (the ex-stand-up comedian who wrote the blog post) might be able to testify. He quit stand-up because he was tired of explaining his jokes to people who were too dumb to appreciate them. Or so he writes.
I won’t be quitting. But I probably won’t be entering this one in any journalism awards competition (such as for the national award I won in column-writing this year). And I’m not going to lose any sleep over it either.
To me, lacking a sense of humor is a worse character flaw than believing in a deity. And if you want to see examples of the former, just look at some of the emails they’ve sent me after the jump. Ha!
From: pj matzig
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2012 3:58:18 PM
To: Dan Casey
Just read your idiotic screed. Have any evidence to back up your fantasies or was that whole imagined conversation just childish wish fulfillment?
From: Susan Fleming
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2012 12:11:24 AM
To: Dan Casey
Subject: Don’t you understand separation of church and state?
I take umberage to your column of Thursday, July 26, 2012. I was reared among strong Judeo-Christian religious teachings. But I was also reared to understand the need for the separation of church and state. To have a state controlled governmental marriage among our religious traditions does nothing but evoke mental images of Nazi Germany leading up to and including the atrocities of World War II.
I doubt you would find many persons of any religious persuasion, or even among those lacking such conviction, who would not agree that the morals as placed down in the Ten Commandments are ideals to aspire to. Of course they are. Without such mores we would encounter lawlessness of a wholesale degree, of that there can be no doubt.
But one can live these tenets in society without having them posted in governmental buildings or in public schools. The key here is that these are public institutions and public buildings.
There are very strong reasons for the separation of church and state. If you do not agree I suggest you read up on The Federalist Papers published in 1787. Our founding fathers understood the opression that can result from so much co-mingling. It s time we remind our selves that government is government and church is church and never the twain shall meet.
Susan K Fleming
From: Ruth Walker
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2012 7:59:09 PM
To: Letters (The Roanoke Times)
Cc: Carole Tarrant; Michael Stowe; Debbie Meade; Dan Casey
Subject: Letter to the Editor
Auto forwarded by a Rule
Perhaps Dan Casey should stick to writing about what he can observe in Roanoke, as it is obvious from the wild speculation in his July 26th column, Atheists likely thrive off Southwest Virginia, that he cannot see Wisconsin from his office.
While true that Dan took digs at others as well, the outrageous dollar amounts must not be ignored. I have read reader comments below news articles suggesting that atheists are only in it for the money, so some of his readers would probably believe the mischaracterization (since FFRF never makes money on lawsuits, at best breaking even and often have un-recouped expenses).
Many of us believe that work to uphold the Constitution of the United States is very important. Please consider publishing what their staff attorney wrote while speculating right back on Dan. ffrf.org/news/blog/let-your-imagination-run-wild
From: Ruth Walker
CEDAR FALLS, IOWA
From: Ed Brayton
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2012 1:49:01 PM
To: Dan Casey
Subject: The FFRFMr. Casey –
In reference to your column:I wonder if you have any evidence at all that the FFRF has made a million and a half dollars on their lawsuit against the Giles County schools over the Ten Commandments? Or any money whatsoever, for that matter?
The case was recently settled and the FFRF didn’t get a dime to reimburse them for their legal work; the ACLU will receive a whopping $6500 for legal fees that went on for 18 months, a tiny fraction of the actual expenses. Do you think the case helped them raise $1.5 million in funds? Do you have any evidence for this? Or do you just think that
fantasizing about such huge numbers is a reasonable way to discredit the organization?By the way, reimbursement for legal fees is open to anyone who sues a government agency, under federal law. If you sue the government over a constitutional violation and win, you can make a motion to have the government pay your legal fees. The reason is obvious: A citizen should not have to pay large amounts of money to keep the government from
violating the law.
When Christian legal groups sue the government and win, they get exactly the same thing. And they also use those cases to raise funds. So can we expect a column imagining such conversations taking place in the offices of Liberty Counsel, the American Center for Law and Justice or the Thomas More Law Center sometime soon?Ed Brayton
From: Guy Alan
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2012 11:51:28 AM
To: Dan Casey
Subject: Atheists Likely Thrive off Southwest Virginia
I’d like to give you some information to better educate you regarding your article, “Atheists Likely Thrive off Southwest Virginia.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a 501(c)3 educational charity. Something to understand about charities is that they exist to raise money; it’s no surprise that FFRF would do the same. Yet, you seem to criticize them for doing so. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt—though your article doesn’t say it explicitly, let’s assume your contention is that the money is used unethically or that the foundation is poorly run. This concern can be easily addressed by visiting the Charity Navigator website where you will find a four star rating for FFRF
and all of the particulars regarding expenses.
Also, you seem to be confused about the nature of atheism. The beginning of your fanciful story includes (what I can only assume was meant to be) a joke where Luke is accidentally referred to as “Lucifer.” Lucifer is a Christian god. Atheists do not believe in Lucifer—or any other god, as it happens. That is what makes them atheists.
I’d like to invite you to write another article on this topic once you’ve done some research on the Freedom From Religion Foundation and atheism in general.
From: Jim Peters[SMTP:JIM@TAZWADE.COM
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2012 7:42:26 AM
To: Dan Casey
Subject: Atheist story
Auto forwarded by a RuleDan, you can get a free FFRF newsletter just by asking. In it, you will see that FFRF does church-and-state separation cases all over the country, and the court cases here are just a couple of relatively forgettable ones of many others. Also, they are a non-profit and publish their balance sheets, so you can get those anytime you want, just by asking.
I think the number you suggest in your story as being raised from California as a result of the issues in Roanoke is
probably more than their entire annual budget, but please feel free to do three minutes of fact-checking to find out. It would probably only take a phone call or a glance at ffrf.org
. They’ll talk to you when you call. They answer their phones.I think a better explanation as to why there are two FFRF issues ongoing in this area is that when the Giles County case hit the news here, someone in Roanoke who had been quietly enduring the prayers at board meetings became aware of an organization that provides relief (and cover) for church-and-state separation issues in communities
such as ours. Oftentimes board members themselves are sick of hearing a dominant board personality’s own personal religious beliefs at the beginning of every meeting, but it takes an outside “threat” (letter) to “force” (provide cover for) the board members to feign reluctance to follow the US Constitution. That way, they get to get rid of the prayer that they don’t want to hear, and also get to keep their seats on the board. They could never do that by resolution.Jim
From: Jim Peterson
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2012 6:47:12 PM
To: Dan Casey
Cc: Michael Stowe
Subject: Atheist article
I read your article Not a bit of satire against the board as you told Mr. Braylon. If there was, you would have mentioned how much money they had to cough up. Sorry, try another excuse for being an ignorant jerk.
Roanoke editor: I know this article wasn’t in your paper. It does show a definite lack of journalistic integrity which reflects upon your paper. If he is able to make up tripe like this, what is to keep him from doing the same on your paper?
Sent: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 12:21:30 PM
To: Dan Casey
Subject: You are a pig
And probably an evil catholic