A Pathetic Response to FFRF’s Memphis Challenge September 23, 2009

A Pathetic Response to FFRF’s Memphis Challenge

Marilyn Loeffel of the Memphis Commercial Appeal doesn’t like the fact that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is trying to stop the Memphis City Council from opening sessions with prayer.

And she uses her brilliant insight to tell us why FFRF is wrong:

A group in Wisconsin is interfering with our lifestyle down here in the Bible Belt. They want the Memphis City Council to discontinue opening its meetings with a prayer. If they knew how much this city needs prayer, they would stop meddling and mind their own business.

I say shame on believers for staying in their holy huddles and letting this intimidation happen. We have allowed the atheists to dictate where, when, how and if we pray. They got prayer out of public schools and we now reap the consequences, opening the door for more drugs, rape and school shootings. That’s why Memphians need to contact their council members and tell them to stand firm.

Wow. That’s a lot of crazy in one sentence. Atheism isn’t the cause of those problems and religion certainly isn’t the answer.

This isn’t that hard to understand, so I don’t know why Loeffel can’t wrap her mind around it.

Anyone can pray anywhere they would like. However, when the government gets involved, as it does in public schools, city council sessions, and taxpayer-funded programs, there can be no endorsement of one religion over another or religion over no religion.

If students want to pray at school, that’s fine. If teachers want to lead a public school class in prayer, that’s not fine.

If individual city council members want to pray, that’s fine. If they want to lead the entire council in prayer, that’s not fine.

Every “freethinker” in the world screams for tolerance. They want conservatives to tolerate liberals, believers to tolerate nonbelievers, right to tolerate left — never accepting the opposite to be fair. They are an example of the adage that if you tell a lie — such as the myth of “separation of church and state” — often enough, it becomes accepted as truth.

That phrase does not appear in our country’s founding documents. The First Amendment guarantees that one particular religion or denomination would not be forced upon the country, that no one would be allowed to infringe upon our rights to exercise and express our religious beliefs. It was, quite clearly, freedom for religion, not from religion. I interpret that to say that this Wisconsin group is wrong. It is their turn to tolerate us.

Also not appearing in the country’s founding documents: Jesus.

One of the commenters left a nice little message for her on the paper’s website:


As a person who is religious, I do not want anyone in my child’s school teaching him how to pray. Ever.

That is my job and something I will do in the privacy of our own home. It is inappropriate for a school teacher or official to impose their religious standards, many of which are different from what I choose to teach my child.

And, Marilyn, if you allow Christian prayers in schools, then you also have to allow Muslim prayer, Buddhist prayer, Hindu prayer, Satanic invocations, etc. If you allow one, you certainly allow them all, and none of these do I wish my child to be forced to learn.

Also, I do not for one moment believe that the moment prayer was removed from schools that it was the same moment drugs, rape and shootings began. That is a result of many more elements than the lack of a prayer.

I am a religious and political conservative, Marilyn, but unlike you I do not wish to live in the America that you prescribe. I do not wish for your religion to become the governing body of our state or nation. I do not wish for other religions to do this either. If this would happen, we’d end up as a bunch of warring theocracies, no different than the middle east.

You, madam, are little more than a ranting and raving nut job, and I continue to find myself ashamed of your half-witted columns. You disgrace TRUE conservatives. I suspect that is the real reason the CA employs you.

Go away.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

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  • JenV


  • Wow! I read through all the comments. My head hurts a little now, but the person that left the comment above was a breath of fresh air. It’s so nice to see someone identify as religious in a comment “war” and come across as calm and intelligent and not trotting out the knee jerk old “we’re being persecuted” whining.

    It’s always interesting (if not tiring) to see how the group in the majority cannot seem to even try to see things from the minority’s perspective. It could just be that they were never a minority, so life experience precludes any understanding.

  • ungullible

    Wow – the quoted response is incredible and inspiring. Too bad it so often seems to be the minority religious response. If more Christians thought like her then blogs like this wouldn’t be necessary, and (no offense Hemant) that would be a good thing.

  • Edmond

    It never fails, though, “You disgrace TRUE conservatives.” You’re not a REAL Christian, that’s not what God REALLY meant, etc etc etc

  • TXatheist

    Speaking of UU and FFRF I got a response about the FFRF ad from Scott Ullrich and he regretted putting the ad in the UU mag. I’m not pleased with UU.

  • @Edmond:

    Exactly! I always wanted to know how they themselves really know what God meant. Because, doesn’t he work in mysterious ways and all, and we aren’t meant to “know” God?

    Or did God actually talk to them and let them know? That sounds like mental illness.

  • Siamang

    I love the salutation “go away.”

    So many weird hate letters end with “sincerely yours” or something.

  • Shannon

    I liked the comment but I also agree with Edmond. I hate when people try to say someone isn’t a “real Christian” because they’re acting badly. So apparently 99% of the Christians throughout history* weren’t real Christians?

    I’ve never heard anyone talk about “real conservatives” before but it’s the same thing.

    Though I do have to point out I’ve come across the “not a real atheist” thing too. It’s just as funny and stupid coming from atheists by the way 😉

    *statistic made up on the spot for humorous purposes

  • Speaking as someone born and raised in the deep south (Mississippi) this paragraph,

    A group in Wisconsin is interfering with our lifestyle down here in the Bible Belt. They want the Memphis City Council to discontinue opening its meetings with a prayer. If they knew how much this city needs prayer, they would stop meddling and mind their own business.

    Sounds exactly like the complaints of “northern interlopers” and “agitators” coming down and meddling in southern affairs during the de-segregation era.

  • Nemo

    A good response, yes, except for the bit of conspiracy-mongering at the end: “I suspect that is the real reason the CA employs you.”

  • «bønez_brigade»

    The majority of the commenters supporting the article’s author (all 6 or 8 of them) don’t seem to be reading the rational rebuttals in the comments, judging from their cheerleading. And the fact that the majority of the commenters disagree with the author is rather nice to see — especially since the paper’s audience is in the Buckle o’ the Babble Belt.

  • DGKnipfer

    This isn’t that hard to understand, so I don’t know why Loeffel can’t wrap her mind around it.

    Really? You don’t know? It’s because prayer in a public place must be lead by the most authoritarian religious person present. “Let us pray together.” is an invitation to show that you are one of us, or you are one of them. That’s why public prayer is expected to be led by the most authoritative religious person or highest ranked (by faith then social position) person present. In their minds, the head of the city council or the school teacher must lead prayer as they are the most authoritative source of moral standing and faith. They believe that these authoritarian positions should only be held by people God has blessed with a greater understanding of God’s plan. If somebody who is not religious fills a position of authority it must be the Devil’s Work. Not leading public prayer is proof to them that you are the devil’s agent. That’s why they don’t want their kids in public schools. Teachers that don’t lead the class in prayer are agents of the Devil.

    It’s really quite simple to them. Pray publicly and often or you must be evil. It’s a not so secret handshake to make sure you’re part of the club because truly evil people are incapable of prayer (in their minds).

  • Balaji Muralidharan

    Religion is by and large a control mechanism that has its good and bad points.

    Religion like democracy has the unfortunate tendency to tell the minority to go f*** themselves.

    Morality is a common thread that exists ( albiet subjectively) as a binder of society. The best enabler of morality is Religion and has been created such. That it has taken other connotations is a different matter altogather.Bottom line religion is a nescessary evil

    It is nothing to take personally.If praying to god gets soem people going, you always has the right of refusal guarenteed and if there is any discriminatory practice SUE SUE and SUE. FI some people get their kicks reciting hymms let it go..it isnt a big deal.

  • Fortunately they at least printed two Letters to the Editor today speaking out against this column. Hopefully the people who read the original column will also see these letters.

    Letters to the Editor

    They’re the 3rd and 4th letters down: “Prayer and civic business don’t mix” and “Willful ignorance of historical facts”

    A couple quick quotes:

    “Prayer and civic business don’t mix”

    The writer laments that “morals and civility are coming unraveled.” At the same time, she suggests that the solution for what to do with people who object to prayers at council meetings is “sending them … into the Mighty Mississippi.” This doesn’t seem to be a very moral or civil attitude. […] As a churchgoer, I can say that I don’t want to hear about city ordinances when I’m in church. So why should people have to listen to prayers when they go to a council meeting? They are two completely different things, and they should stay that way.

    “Willful ignorance of historical facts”

    I know it’s hard for someone like Loeffel to understand, but the foundation’s signs, billboards and slogans are shining rays of hope for those of us who belong to the last minority — atheists. The only place you will find intolerance and hatred in the foundation’s publications is in the hate mail that is mostly sent by her fellow Christians.

    The phrase “wall of separation between church and state” was used by Thomas Jefferson in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists explaining the meaning of the First Amendment. This is a matter of historical record. With such widespread access to the Internet, it’s hard to understand why so many “educated” people in this country choose to remain ignorant of historical facts.

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