Discrimination in Wilson County, Tennessee August 7, 2008

Discrimination in Wilson County, Tennessee

The Wilson County Fair in Lebanon, Tennessee gets over a quarter-million attendees during its almost week-long festivities.

On Sunday, August 17th, the theme is “God and Country Day.” That seems like an odd theme for a local government…

Join us in honoring those who are currently serving our country and those who have previously served. Help us show strong support for the men and women of Wilson County who are faithfully serving our country through their military service. We also want to honor those who have completed their service. Let’s stand with our military personnel and their families.

But at least they’re not discriminating against people who don’t believe in God, right?

Surely, they wouldn’t ignore the service of all the atheists who have served in foxholes…

$2 off admission with church bulletin (each person must bring a bulletin from the weekend of August 17.)


So a government funded program will give you a discount if you attend a church.

And they are implying that only those who believe in God serve our country.

American Atheists is organizing a group to attend the fair that day.

If you want to go, come prepared:

In addition to the GCD event, the Wilson County Fair is offering $2.00 off the cost of general admission to anyone showing a church bulletin. You can let Wilson County officials know about the discriminatory nature of this unconstitutional promotion of sectarian religion by calling 615-443-2626. Print out a copy of your local freethinkers’ group web page, or the American Atheists web site home page (http://www.atheists.org) and bring it with you. Demand the $2.00 off your general admission as well.

If they didn’t give you a discount even after you showed them your atheist bulletin, I imagine it would be grounds for a lawsuit… sound petty? For $2, perhaps. But it’s the principle of the matter.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Lebanon, TN in the news when it comes to the local government’s religious preference. The ACLU sued the local school system in 2006:

School administrators repeatedly disregarded the family’s requests and continued to promote and sponsor activities like “Prayer at the Flag Pole” and “Praying Parents,” whose members enter classrooms and tell students that they have prayed for them. Rather than taking the family’s requests seriously, the school administrators encouraged the family to withdraw their child from the school.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU of Tennessee argues that the pattern and practice of promoting and endorsing religious activities by the Wilson County public school system is unconstitutional. In addition to “Praying Parents” and “Prayer at the Flag Pole,” the Wilson County school system promotes a range of religious activities, including a National Day of Prayer event and teacher-led classroom prayers, according to the lawsuit.

(via NoGodBlog)

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  • cameronp

    Now, as much as I agree with you, Hemant, you’re definitely fighting a losing battle here. Wilson County is in the middle of the bible belt, and frankly I’d be surprised if there were more than a handful of atheists there. It isn’t worth the fight. And honestly, those atheists shouldn’t go to the fair in the first place- it’s redneck breeding ground. Not to mention, $5 for 3 throws at the milk bottle stand? C’mon. Half the rides should be condemned too.

  • Of all the places I have lived, the Nashville area has to be the most religious. If the Bible Belt has a buckle, it is in Tennessee somewhere. Wackaloons abound here as evidenced by the recent shootings at a Knoxville UU church. I am originally from TN, but the religious intolerance here is really out of hand and makes me not want to live here anymore.

  • Joe L.

    I just watched your speech at the Atheist Coming Out Party last night, and one of the things I liked was when you said that atheists in general need to lighten up and not take everything so damned seriously.

    …. i think this might be one of those occasions – might not be worth making a fuss over a $2 discount with church bulletins, regardless of the venue or principle involved

  • Korinthian

    @Joe: If it is government-sponsored we are talking a lot more than measly two-dollar bills.

    I’m not equating one thing with the other, but: “Sitting in the back of the bus isn’t that bad, is it?” It’s the principle.

  • Polly

    God and country – the two biggest sacks of bullshit.
    When you combine these two awful forces it creates something really awful.

    This might be a case where “picking your battles” applies. The mix is too volatile. They’ll say “See, these atheists hate our country!” Facts don’t matter. The only thing anyone will remember was that a bunch of atheists tried to spoil their little celebration.

  • Joe L.

    @Polly – yeah, that’s pretty much my point. I mean, I’m all about stirring up some shit or starting battles where they would do some good.
    but what good can come from this particular battle?

  • Krista

    I used to live directly in that area. Let me tell ya … I moved. The place is overrun with racists and bigots. There have been incidents for years of hate crimes against gay people. My queer girlfriend had to carry a knife because she had been attacked in parking lots twice because she is visibly gay. They have a statue on the freakin’ highway of one of the founders of the KKK.
    This is a place where stupid little battles need to be fought. If nothing else it will raise awareness in a few people. None of those ignorant red necks are going to think they are wrong if they think they are completely surrounded by white folks who will back them up. Maybe if some atheists and agnostics and free thinkers come out and say something … I just think crashing their party would be worthwhile.

  • rememberer

    If it makes y’all feel any better, many Christians hate the “God and Country” schtick as much as you do.

  • Darryl

    You know, this makes me think about states rights–follow me here:

    I’m an independent, but I vote mostly Democratic. I live in a state where my vote is wasted because it’s overwhelmingly conservative. In other words, I really don’t get representation, not by my senators or congressmen, and not by my President. The Bush years have been exceedingly frustrating for me.

    The Republicans–before Bush–had been champions of States’ rights and Federalism, you know, “shrink the Federal government, and put power back in the hands of the States.” I’m for that. Not a crazy absolutist version of it like the whackos want, but a reasonable version.

    Think of what that would mean. Now, states like TN, where there are a lot of conservative, right-wing, Christian fundamentalists, piss the hell out of people like me and step on my rights all day long, but if we encouraged states to go their own way on issues like church-state separation then the country could sort itself out: conservatives could migrate to the conservative states and liberals could migrate to the liberal states.

    Consider the benefits: beyond the obvious–no more bullshit to put up with–the “blue” states would have more wealth (liberals tend to be wealthier than rednecks) and would be able to invest more in rational government policies, there would be less financial drag on the state economy from all the trailer trash sucking on the government tit and all the bullshit ideas that fundies come up with (a lot less lawsuits), and the “red” states would probably fuck themselves royally and have to go begging to the Federal government to bail them out (ah, the healthiness of shame!). Of course, on the down side, we’d probably have to fight another Civil War eventually.

    Well, I can dream.

  • Richard Wade

    rememberer said,

    If it makes y’all feel any better, many Christians hate the “God and Country” schtick as much as you do.

    Enough to show up to denounce and protest it? I’ll be looking for these Christians in the newspapers and on TV. If only atheists demonstrably object to it they will be dismissed out of hand but if your “many Christians” protest it will be big news.

    You are what you do, not what you think.

  • I rather doubt the county fair is connected to the government at all. In my experience County Fairs are named so for the place, and are private enterprises. It could be the land on which the fair takes place is county-owned, but what happens there is not run by the county government.

  • TXatheist

    Hemant, it’s the south so don’t be surprised, seriously. I’m glad you brought it to our attention but that’s a little too far from Austin for me. Remember the 10C monument at the Austin Capitol? The Attorney General said with a straight face that it’s a secular monument(concerning it’s purpose).

  • Vincent

    Of course it’s worth the fight.
    Nobody paid any attention to the discrimination in the South until a bunch of northerners went there and got it on the national news, and public rejection of what was going on ultimately made the Civil Rights Movement successful.
    Make discrimination news and it will change.

  • JT

    Just so you guys know – the group that is going to be there protesting – they are going to have t-shirts that say “I support foxhole atheists” or “Foxhole Atheist” – I would go (I’m a foxhole atheist) but had a prior commitment:


  • llewelly


    The Republicans–before Bush–had been champions of States’ rights and Federalism, you know, “shrink the Federal government, and put power back in the hands of the States.” I’m for that. Not a crazy absolutist version of it like the whackos want, but a reasonable version

    Haha. Reagan exploded the national deficit to record heights. Then old George Herbert Walker Bush broke those records. The ‘shrink the Federal government’ Republicans didn’t die when G.W. won in 2000. They died in the Republican primaries of 1980, when Reagan advocated the Laffer (or is laughter?) curve, and old G.H.W. Bush called it ‘voodoo economics’. Reagan’s voodoo-thinking won the debate, and that was the last time G.H.W. Bush, or any other prominent Republican, had anything bad to say about the Laffer curve, or giant deficits. Today, to the extent that any federal politician can be honestly described as a small government republican, the small government republicans consist of Ron Paul (I know, he’s a racist creep, but he is relatively consistent in voting against almost all large government expenditures), and a few democrats – yeah, there are more democrats in federal government today that vote small government than there are republicans. States rights has gone more or less the same way. Ever since about 1980 or so, people who want states rights and small government have been better off voting democrat, even though most modern democrats have little interest in either cause.

  • Amy

    I will be attending this event with NAFA (North Alabama Freethought Association) on Sunday. This group is being led by Blair Scott, director of Alabama Atheists. We will be attending the fair wearing atheism related t-shirts and with webpage printouts in hand.

  • cipher

    Hemant – if you go, PLEASE be careful.

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