Dangerous Nonsense in Illinois

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Via the OList, I have gotten wind of a recent display of anti-religious bigotry by a government official. Here is a transcript (via Qwertz), but do watch the video embedded below when you get a chance.

Here we have Illinois State Representative Monique Davis -- a government official -- "informing" a citizen, atheist activist Rob Sherman, that he hasn't the right to freedom of speech because of his beliefs concerning religion.

Davis: … What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it's dangerous--

Sherman: What's dangerous, ma'am?

Davis: It's dangerous to the progression of this state. And it's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you'll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I'm sure that if this matter does go to court--

Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon. [bold added]
While Davis does have the right, as a private citizen, to "spew and spread" such dangerous nonsense, her doing so in the context of a government hearing constitutes a threat to Sherman's freedom of speech. As such, it is morally wrong, contrary to the proper purpose of a government (if not illegal), and completely unacceptable.

As you will notice from the video clip, she sounds like she's ready to round up a lynch mob.

Opinion polls regularly show that atheists are one of America's most distrusted and despised minorities. Having been born in 1936, well before Jim Crow ended, Davis should be able to remember something about what government persecution of individual members of minorities means. Her willingness to turn around and do the same thing in and of itself demonstrates that her faith is anything but a sound basis for understanding or protecting individual rights.

After I showed this video to my wife, she asked whether I would like to hear an atheist rebuttal. "No, sweetie," I said. "Most atheists have a such a poor command of the issues involved that they will do more harm than good."

I had forgotten, though, about an excellent series of discussions about "Reason vs. Faith" posted to YouTube by the Ayn Rand Institute. Fortunately, Davis reminded Amit Ghate of those. I recommend watching them and link to each at the end of this post.

I am an atheist and have been for more than twenty years. I disagree with Christianity and regard it as a moral and practical impediment to happiness at best and to life itself at worst, when it is practiced. And it is a threat to life and freedom any time it is incorporated into government. But I have never said and never will say that a Christian "has no right" to hold or state his opinion, or to practice it so long as he does not interfere with my rights.

All men have rights that inhere in our nature as rational beings, and the right to discuss facts and opinions -- which Davis refuses to recognize or protect -- is one of those rights. I recommend that anyone in Davis's district first complain about this display of bigotry and incipient tyranny, and then work to unseat her in the next election.

And then, for anyone who might wonder why I think rejecting religion would be to anyone's benefit as a rational being, I refer you -- as a start -- to the following "Reason vs. Faith" videos from ARI. Each raises a question and answers it, so click on a number and watch: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

Rejecting religion alone will not lead to morality or happiness, but taking a rational approach to the kinds of questions religion attempts to answer eventually can, as Ayn Rand demonstrated.

Contrary to the approach of faith that countless Christians have advised over the ages, nothing worth doing -- like living a happy and fulfilling life -- is ever as easy as just taking someone's word wholesale on a host of life-and-death issues, or following orders.


-- CAV


Anonymous said...

No doubt if Miss Davis had an "R" after her name, this revolting exchange would have been reported on the front page of the New York Times and covered by every major television news network as further evidence that the "Religious Right Strikes Again". Nor do I think her attitude is unique in certain "Liberal" circles. But she does not have an "R" after her name, thus ensuring that a general eerie silence on the matter will prevail and the Religion=Republican myth allowed to stand.

Gus Van Horn said...

I think you have a point about media bias and about how "secular" the Democrats are.

But those things make the Republicans no less than the stalking horses for theocracy that they are.

Lynne said...

I got the news via an atheist homeschooling list this morning.

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune blog "Change of Subject" has some interesting pieces on it too, starting here: http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2008/04/rep-monique-dav.html

The Council for Secular Humanism is now calling for Davis' resignation.

While you can hear her ramp up (aka - pulling a Dean) her most passionate thoughts -"Get out of that seat!" are violent and corrupt.

Am I too naive to think that this could only be good for atheists in the long run? It's certainly worth following.

Gus Van Horn said...

It could be.

But then the race issue and the fact that Barack Obama's religion is getting beaten up on again might be used to distract from the issue at hand.

And this is on top of what the earlier commenter said regarding the lack of attention to the Democrat. And the Democrats' desire to pander to fundamentalists....

Most lefties will want this to die quietly.

I'm less than optimistic this will amount to much, but I won't rule it out.

Galileo Blogs said...

This outburst casts off the veil that typically hides the most deeply held views of fundamentalists towards atheists. It reminds me of right after the O.J. Simpson acquittal and many blacks surprisingly (to me) were cheering and dancing. The O.J. verdict triggered the release of pent-up views towards justice that many blacks held but had been unwilling to show the world. In the same manner, this hearing provoked this fundamentalist to show her true colors.

Christian fundamentalists do want to eliminate the separation of church and state, and if they are successful, their true colors will shine brightly, as it did in Illinois.

Right now, atheists are begrudgingly tolerated by these people, but only because our Constitution gives them no other choice, for now.

Gus Van Horn said...

This is something of a wake-up call on that score.

Blacks are a key constituency of the Democratic Party and many have views like the ones Davis expressed.

The New Left has already greatly reduced the value of the Democratic Party in terms of its value as a bulwark against encroachments onto personal freedom.

And now, thanks in part to the conservative Republicans, this religious element is starting to feel emboldened.

Anonymous said...

"The New Left has already greatly reduced the value of the Democratic Party in terms of its value as a bulwark against encroachments onto personal freedom.

I am unaware that the Democract Party, with or without the New Left for whom such a concept is absolute anathama, was ever a bulwark against encroachments onto personal freedom other than at the most illusory level. This was, after all, the party of the KKK, segregation and Jim Crow in the American South.

Can you explain what you mean by this?

Gus Van Horn said...

Well, I'm not going to waste my breath especially defending them, but you will recall that the Democrats, like the Republicans, are a coalition of often contradictory elements.

The Southern Democrats, who were guilty of the sins you list, did fight against civil rights, but the rest of the party did fight for civil rights. (And yes, civil rights is a mixed bag.)

The Democrats have been better about not limiting speech on the basis of "indecency", not attempting to legislate sexual morality, and (at least until now) preserving the separation of church and state.

But like I said, I'm not defending them. To really slam the Democrats in the way they deserve, forget about the old paleoconservative wing and look at such things the "Fairness" doctrine and hate crime laws.

Anonymous said...

A note regarding the Democrats: historically, they were the party of free trade. That is the grain of truth in Civil War revisionism, which attempts to paint the rebellion as "really" being over tariffs and freedom of trade with Europe. m This claim is made en route to painting the slavery issue as merely the North's fig leaf justifying their "aggression".

Gus Van Horn said...


I have heard things along those lines -- and stated with the same ulterior motive.

It's interesting how one must pick through facts neglected innocently or on purpose and evaluate evidence which may or may not be interpreted objectively in understanding historical events.