Christians: Do You Defend Your Own Freedom? August 6, 2009

Christians: Do You Defend Your Own Freedom?

ban equals ban

Richard Wade here.
I’ve spent a long time on this blog trying to have and to promote respectful dialogues with the many Christians who visit. Many of you have expressed your appreciation of my courteous approach. I now want to spend some of that “social capital” by respectfully issuing you a challenge, and by making an appeal:


Your truthful answer is not shown by your words but by your actions. Yet again, another atheist bus ad has been unfairly and illegally banned, this time in Des Moines, Iowa. What are you going to do to protest and to correct this? We are what we do. Our words mean nothing without actions.

You are free to worship and express yourself as you wish only because of the First Amendment. If not for that, you would not be practicing the particular faith that you are. You’d be worshiping whatever way the government dictated, and I’m sure you wouldn’t like it. You are free only because we are all free to follow our consciences.

This is your liberty that is being threatened, not just that of atheists. In the comfort of their majority, most Christians blithely take it for granted, accepting the benefit but not paying anything back in responsibility, like spoiled children. All of us must defend our freedoms, not just those who are being trampled upon on any given day. If it is okay to stifle one group, soon enough it will be okay to stifle your group. If you, as the majority don’t stand up to things like this, then you, more than others will richly deserve the suppression that will eventually smother us all. The battle for all our rights is not in Iraq, it’s right here. In Iowa.

Christians: At the very least I ask you to do this:
Read Hemant’s post to understand the story, click on the links there to phone, email or write DART, identify yourself as a Christian and tell them that as a Christian you demand that the atheist bus ads be replaced back on the buses immediately. Then post your comment here telling us what you did or did not do, and why. If you have already commented there about an action you took, copy and paste it here. If you don’t think you should have to do anything about this, then have the courage to tell us why not.

Atheists: Please hold back your comments for a while and let the Christians comment here so we can readily see what, if any, response they have.

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  • 2 hours… No comments…

    Hypocrisy is the christian motto…

  • Richard Wade

    Wait. Give them time. They may have not seen it yet. Impatience drains our strength and credibility. Think about how great it would be if you were wrong about them. Being right is often a sad outcome.

  • JJ

    I have emailed DART and their ad agency with my concerns.

    As a Christian, the Bible tells us to respect civil authority – Romans 13:1 – “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (My note – be they “good” or “bad” authorities, they are a part of God’s plan.)

    Governing authorities drafted the Constitution of this country and outlined freedoms of speech, religion, right to assembly, etc. You have a constitutional right to express your opinion, as do I, in a non-violent manner.

    That being said, I abhor what the Des Moines transit authority is doing.

    While I do not necessarily agree with your beliefs, I support your right to express those beliefs.

  • Keith (the pastor)


    I’m on it … I’ll keep you posted on what happens. Thanks!

  • Keith (the pastor)


    I placed a phone call to DART and left a message outside of business hours … I identified myself as a Christian and a minister, asked for clarifications about why the ads were taken down, and volunteered my opinion that positive ads like this be allowed to run with the aside that I want people to follow Jesus because they choose to, not because other viewpoints were shouted down. I left my # for a return call and if I don’t hear back from them by middayish tomorrow, I’ll call again.

  • ayer

    I have sent an email to DART asking them to allow the atheist bus ads.

    However, I have to admit that the sympathy on this site for Sam Harris’ loathsome desire to see Francis Collins denied the NIH position dampened my enthusiasm for sending the email.

  • from some of the previous comments i would be afraid to post here if i was a christian: “This goes exactly to the heart of what atheists have been saying long enough – Christians are intolerant, and illegally so!”, “It just goes to show how insecure religious people are in their beliefs.”, “Typical bloody Christians.”

    it’s not all christians that are doing this. it is very important to remember that!

  • Keith (the pastor)

    Additionally, I sent the following e-mail to DART:

    My name is Keith Kepley. I am Christian and also a pastor. Many of my friends are atheists and they have brought to my attention the decision to disallow the bus ads purchased by the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers. Please enlighten me on the reasons for this disallowal. And please register my support of these ads being allowed. If possible, I would like to speak with someone at DART by phone and find out what more I can do to see this decision overturned (my cell # is ###-###-####).

    My rationale is as follows: I want people to follow Jesus … but I don’t want it to happen because other points-of-view were shouted down. Jesus debated with other religious viewpoints in his day, and many of those altercations are recorded in the Bible. In those accounts, Jesus wasn’t the one doing the silencing … that was done by the dudes who crucified him. It is very important to me that my atheist friends and persons of all viewpoints be able to speak freely about their beliefs. This ad must be allowed in acknowledgment of the dignity, value, and rights of people who do not believe in God. If the God I believe in exists (and I openly and brazenly believe He does) He has given them life and loves them unconditionally as He does me. Please do not let the loud bullying voices carry the day in this situation. These voices may believe in God, but in this moment they are not following Jesus. Please change this decision. Thank you!


  • My message to DART:

    To whom it may concern,

    I learned recently of the decision to remove ads from your buses that were sponsored by local atheist organizations. As a Christian, I disagree with the decision for several reasons.

    I value my religious freedom greatly because I know many of my fellow believers around the globe do not enjoy the same liberties. However, religious freedom must go for all or none. This includes the freedom to not be religious.

    Some may take offense at the message of the ads, but the actual content of the ads is rather innocuous. I find it hard to believe that any believer is going to see these ads and suddenly abandon his or her faith.

    Finally, the only reason that people censor content is fear. Does anyone truly find these ads frightening? If so, that is a weak faith indeed.

    I respectfully request that you honor your agreement with the sponsoring organizations and re-post the ads immediately.


    My reason is simple: Any faith that does not tolerate a challenge is no faith at all.

    And Blog Mallmal: some of us actually have lives off-line and can’t drop everything to check what’s new in the blogosphere every few minutes.

  • stogoe

    Collins is someone to whom entire avenues of scientific research are anathema. Should we really put someone in charge of NIH who is going to shut whole wings of research off from inquiry? Is that the best we can do?

  • Sadly, I’ve not had much time this past year to even read this blog (to which I am still technically a “contributor”), much less take on projects like this one. Nonetheless, if I can find a spare 30-minutes in the next few days, I will send a letter to DART protesting this action. Please know that there are tens of millions of Christians out there who do care about freedom of speech for all, and if they do not necessarily respond to this post it may simply be because they are not reading this blog, not because they don’t care.

    -Mike C.

  • Richard Wade

    Thank you for an eloquent and compelling statement, true to the best wisdom of your faith. I very much appreciate your earnestness and perseverance. I look forward to continuing enjoying our freedom to think differently, together. I’ll be there for you if some day it is your voice that gets muffled.

  • Richard Wade

    Your faithfulness to the principles we share, as strong as to the beliefs we do not share does you great credit. I thank you and proudly stand with you for our mutual rights.

  • ayer: I applaud your actions.

    Do you understand that for (most) atheists, the opposition to Collins is not on the basis of his faith, but on the basis of his actions, in particular when acting in an official capacity while in a position that should not be used to promote a particular religious view?

    If Collins had in the past demonstrated that he was able to leave off evangelizing while carrying out his duties in an inherently secular position, almost all of us would be just fine with his personal beliefs, and his right to express them when not acting officially.

    That is, opposition to Collins is NOT a free speech issue, it’s a “quit using government positions to evangelize your faith” issue.

  • Richard Wade

    Rising above the temptation to indulge in resentment in order to defend a higher principle is no small thing, and is sadly rare. I am sincerely grateful for your willingness to transcend lesser differences and lend your assistance. You are gracious.

    Agreement is not important. Only understanding is.

  • Richard Wade

    Your excellent message to DART is strong and full of punch, as I imagine is your faith. Boom-boom, you went straight to the issues. I think such letters from Christians have much more influence with these misguided censors than letters from frustrated atheists, because they cannot be immediately dismissed as self-serving. Actually, we’re all protecting ourselves in this, but these people don’t yet see the bigger picture. My heartfelt thanks for your help.

  • Richard Wade

    Mike C!
    It’s always good to hear from you, my friend. Thank you ahead of time for what I’m sure will be another of your slam-dunk statements for freedom, fairness, friendship, fraternity and faith.

    Yes, I’m sure there are many other Christians out there who care about liberty. Give a few whom you know a poke, okay?

    Just showing up, you warm my godless old heart. My best wishes to you, Julie The Remarkable, and the Kids of Intense Cuteness.

  • TJ

    it’s not all christians that are doing this. it is very important to remember that!

    This is an argument I see time and again and I’m tired of it. If this is true, why are the majority of Christians just sitting back and allowing these type of people speak for them? Unless of course, you are all like this deep down…

    Same thing can be said for Muslims.

    Convince me wrong! Stand up and let everyone know what you all really stand for. Posting on a blog is one thing, I’m talking about doing this publicly. March on and overthrow hate mongers like Fred Phelps and tell the nation that you won’t stand for it.

    Maybe then you’d get some respect. Cuz as it stands now, based on the (apparent) vocal minority, the silent majority, and the writings in the Bible, us rationalists are being painted quite a negative image of religion and rightfully so. You guys can change that.

  • Are we witnessing a new era of atheist and christians agreeing on something? =)

    I love it!

  • In light of the news that DART is going to reconsider the ads, I’d like to thank all of the Christians (and atheists) who supported this. I’m not saying this is a victory for atheism, because it’s not. Not really. It’s more like a victory for free speech.

  • GodisReal

    Richard, I pose your question back to you as food for thought. What Christian freedoms have you fought for, defended, embraced? (For the sake of us all, right?)

  • Neon Genesis

    Even if the criticism of some atheists towards Francis Collins is unfair in your eyes, I fail to see why that’s a reason why you should punish all atheists by taking away our freedom of speech. If an ad company refused to put a harmless Christian ad that said Christians exist, would you like it if we decided not to support their freedom of speech to punish all Christians because of the actions of some Christians we find outrageous? Is this really following the teachings of Jesus? What happened to turning the other cheek and loving your enemies?

  • GodisReal

    @ Neon Genesis: Hmmm…atheists quote Bible scripture? Because you’re so well versed on its context and all, right?

  • Richard Wade

    Uh, Neon Genesis, if you’re referring to ayer, who mentioned his/her objection to the Francis Collins issue, a closer look will show that s/he did write to DART, asking them to allow the atheist bus ads. So s/he has already done what you are saying that we should all do, rise above bickering for higher causes, and I am grateful.

    You wrote to DART too, right?

  • Efogoto

    I am an atheist. Thank you Christians, my fellow Americans, who have spoken out for our shared right of free speech.

  • I haven’t commented here for a while. This issue seems most definitely an American thing – were I a citizen (or even a resident) I’d write to DART.

    As it is, I am living across the globe in Australia struggling to come to terms with the idea that a government so staunchly in favour of free speech would stifle discussion.

    I do wonder though, if the stance some are taking on the Collins issue is a little unfair. Christians, and I know this opens me up to all sorts of “no true Christian” arguments, Christians can’t really not proselytize. To do so would be immoral.

    Christians, also, can’t, in good conscience, allow injustices – scientific injustices – to be perpetrated. Your stance on this matter would rob Christians of the ability to participate in public life at all. That hardly seems tolerant.

    And re the “not all Christians are doing this” line – and the counterpoint…

    I’d suggest there are very few Christians who are keeping tabs on the plight of the atheist movement. It’s not a hugely concerning matter for most of us. But again, I’m living on the other side of the globe. So I might be wrong…

  • Richard Wade

    Nathan, You may not be aware that living on the other side of the globe has not protected you from the very same challenges to your freedom of speech. Last year, an Australian bus company refused to run a very innocuous atheist ad, and only now is your freedom of speech going to have a chance to be restored. Since you say that if you lived in the U.S. you’d write to DART, then maybe you should write to support the bus ads that were censored in your own country.

    Here’s your chance as a Christian who values free speech to take action to support the very same principle in a case happening on your own turf. I’m not sure how or where you can express your views to influence the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner to favor the Atheist Foundation, but if you’re both willing and able to speak out for free speech, we’d love to hear your report of your efforts.

  • Revyloution

    I wanted to drop a quick thanks to everyone who has helped support the idea of individual liberties. Irregardless of your personal philosophy, the concepts in our bill of rights are a morality that truly serves to build a good society for all people.

    But I mostly wanted to comment on Keith the Pastor. Did you really refer to the agents of the Roman Empire, and the Pharisee Jews, as ‘The dudes who crucified him.’ I laughed out loud when I read that.

  • Richard,

    You may or may not have heard. The Atheist Foundation of Australia recently won a decision in Tasmania to have Bus ads displayed.

  • Keith (the pastor)



  • Richard Wade

    Sean the Blogonaut,
    Thank you. Looking all over the internet, I have only found articles saying that the tribunal would be held on Aug. 4, and one saying that it was held on that day, but nothing about the final decision and the actual remedy. There was apparently quite a bit of deceit by Metro Tasmania. Have you found any credible citations of the official outcome?

  • Thank you Christians for standing up for freedom of speech. It’s vitally important for both sides.

    GodIsReal said; “@ Neon Genesis: Hmmm…atheists quote Bible scripture? Because you’re so well versed on its context and all, right?”

    Just so you know, lots of atheists are ex-Christians. Some are ex-ministers who went to college to learn about the bible and church history.

  • Keith (the pastor)


    You said, “Richard, I pose your question back to you as food for thought. What Christian freedoms have you fought for, defended, embraced? (For the sake of us all, right?)”

    You did read this thread, right? Within the first two comments, Richard is standing up for Christians. This week, Richard stood up for Christians when it was suggested that religion provided a rationalization for George Sodoni’s crimes, drawing a contrast between providing and being used. That’s just a few of the times Richard has stood up for Christians in the three blog threads I’ve followed this week … something tells me Richard’s thoughtfulness and selflessness has led him to stand up for the rights of theists at other times as well.

    Not sure if your question was sarcastic … if it wasn’t, I’m glad … and I hope this helps reassure that Richard is seeking to improve atheist/theist relations from both sides. If it was, I’d encourage you to spend more time reading the posts of those you interact with before assuming you know what they think. Thanks!

  • Richard Wade

    Your question about what have I done to fight for Christian freedoms is a fair one. Since Christians are the majority in this country, I seldom see their rights to express themselves stifled in the general public arena, as was done to atheists in the Des Moines bus case. More often, I see that happen in forums where atheists predominate, and Christians are dismissed out of hand, shouted down or driven away with insults. On many occasions, both in discussions where people are physically present, and in blogs like this one right here, I have stood up and called for fair and respectful treatment of Christians and other theists so that their opinions can be expressed without intimidation or upset.

    On another discussion board a few years ago, I argued again and again against vicious attacks against a Muslim woman, awful vitriol from Christians and atheists alike, simply because she was Muslim. She taught me by her example the value of patient engagement and respectful dialogue, and I consider her my friend. I spend a good percent of my time getting in the faces of atheists or anyone else who forget their manners, and if they dislike me for that, too bad. Freedom is freedom. I don’t distinguish between the freedom of those with one opinion and another. We are either all free or none of us will be.

    Now your fair question comes back to you:

    I assume from your screen name and your comment that you are a Christian. Did you take any action in this case to protect your freedom to express yourself from arbitrary discrimination, or did you leave it up to me, an atheist, to protect your right to disagree with me? That’s what I’m doing. Talk is cheap. What you value is shown by what you actually do.

    There are plenty of other opportunities to help. Will you stand beside a godless comrade?

  • Richard Wade

    Thank you.

  • imissbubby

    Dear Richard, The world doesn’t seem to be a fair place, does it?

    When are atheists going to petition the government to stop forcing children in public schools to believe in Darwin’s religion? When will the government stop protecting the religion of atheism masquerading as science?

    We all have to work together to get freedom of speech. It can’t be one sided.

  • Richard Wade

    I expected that someone would try to elevate that to the level of a free speech issue. I’d rather not have this thread degrade into yet another inane “debate” about teaching the so-called controversy, but I will say this:

    All free speech exists in a context, and is uttered in a context. That free speech is not so free that it can be uttered in a context that is inappropriate for its topic.

    When the Riverbend City Council invites public discussion in its chambers over the proposed storm drain project, if I go there and want to talk instead about the West Meadowville City Council’s proposed street beautification program, then the Riverbend City Council has the right to tell me to stop disrupting their meeting, and to go exercise my right to free speech in the appropriate context.

    When I was in junior high school, my English teacher was also my wood shop teacher. He was excellent at teaching both. But when he was in the English class, he never, ever spent precious English class time explaining when we should use a cross-cut saw blade and when we should use a rip saw blade. When he was in the wood shop class he never, ever spent precious wood shop class time explaining when we should use the word “who” and when we should use the word “whom.” If he had not been so conscientious about teaching the subjects in their proper context, I would probably not have become as skilled as I am in both English and woodworking.

    When Darwin’s theory can be convincingly shown to be a religion, as you put it, instead of a scientific theory with a large body of supporting evidence, and which, unlike a religion, is continually being amended and revised as new evidence comes to light, then it should be taught in a religion class. So far, only a few religionists are calling it that, and their arguments for that are weak.

    When creationism and its science-pretending clone, “intelligent design” can produce a strong body of convincing empirical evidence supporting the existence of the central tenet of its claim, the intelligent designer, instead of merely whining about “gaps, weaknesses and controversies” in the competing theory, and when that body of evidence is submitted to scientific peer review, and when it holds up to the challenges that all hypotheses must endure in science, then it should be taught in a science class. So far, despite centuries of repeating the same claims which are now repackaged in modern jargon, nothing even close to that has been offered.

    Your freedom of speech exists in appropriate contexts. You are not free to speak whatever you wish in an inappropriate context. You can’t falsely yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, or joke about bombs at an airport. If you want to change the context where you can freely speak on a topic, then you will have to show convincing evidence that your topic is appropriate for the new context.

    You are free to produce convincing evidence that wood shop is actually English, and that saw blade usage should be taught in English classes. Until you can produce such evidence that the context you want to use is appropriate for the subject you want to talk about, then you’ll have to make do with speaking freely within the context where it presently fits.

  • Euan

    The statement on that site reads: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

    Umm, can’t see the problem. Evidence for Darwinian theory is being constantly examined and re-evaluated.

  • Blog Mallmal Says:
    2 hours… No comments…

    Hypocrisy is the christian motto…

    This is my point name calling and innuendo on all sides of belief. The Atheist has every right to freedom of speech and his religious belief as I do. I would lay down my very life if need be to do this for even a Satan worshiper. Which by the way I was prepared to do for 13 years.

    I am tired or atheists, Islamists, Christians etc etc etc all fighting who is right and who is wrong.

    I am truly tired of my so called christian wannabe brothers and sisters. It is obvious that they do not read or understand history. Christianity is the bloodiest religion on the planet. We have fought more wars and killed more people in the Name of the Christian God than any other religion. Seems to be kind of opposite to what Jesus teaches does it not?

    In answer to your question, tell me how I can help you win your fight for Freedom of Speech and Religious Belief. After all in mine God gave us ALL Free Will to choose. I do not have to answer for your actions, only mine.

    Do you all realize that if all of us here in America put aside all these petty differences accepted each other for what we believed that our very Government would be extremely afraid of us. Thus they would not be doing what they are doing today.

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