"Freedom of speech was never meant to be a license for fringe groups to insult and antagonize the rest of us," says Larry Stickney, President of the Washington Values Alliance. "While we must all do our best to respect the opinion of those we don't agree with," he says, "the 1st Amendment also guarantees our constitutional right to carry on our nation's religious culture and traditions and we should be able to do so without petty harassment."
The saga all started in October when Washington State gave a permit to a Wisconsin-based atheist group to display its sign alongside a Christian Nativity scene in the state's Capitol in Olympia. The lengthy message on the sign states in part, "At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell." It then goes into hateful attack mode, saying, "There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
Since the atheist sign went up on December 1, Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire's telephone switchboard has been flooded with calls voicing complaints, up to 200 calls an hour. Calls mushroomed following Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show highlighting the controversial sign. O'Reilly calls it "political correctness gone mad."
Stickney explained the faulty logic of those allowing the exhibition of the hateful atheist sign: "Here is where Gregoire and other Olympia liberals' erroneous interpretation of free speech and the 1st Amendment breaks down," he said. "In their world, it's okay to verbally pummel tens of thousands of Christians and disrespect their holidays, but don't you dare open your mouth disparagingly about a minority religion or a deviant sexual lifestyle or you will likely be fired and/or charged with a hate crime." Stickney summarizes: "The constitutional right to exercise free speech anytime and anywhere applies to liberals and their politically correct causes and classifications only."
Outraged by this sign that mocks religions, this week more than 500 demonstrators rallied on the steps of the state Capitol to protest. Five days after it was placed near a large bust of George Washington, the placard created by the Wisconsin-based organization, Freedom From Religion Foundation, vanished. It reappeared later in the day when a man turned it over to a Seattle radio station.