Alabama Town’s Religious Signs Come Down After FFRF Takes Notice April 24, 2012

Alabama Town’s Religious Signs Come Down After FFRF Takes Notice

This is the way Sylvania, Alabama greets visitors to the town:

How did Ephesians 4:5 get in there…?

I don’t know, but four different signs use that same Biblical message to welcome people — and all four are illegal.

So the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent Mayor Mitchell Dendy a letter explaining the problem (PDF) last week.

To add insult to injury, attorney Patrick Elliott wrote:

The signs are not even representative of the beliefs of all Christians. To some, the Epistle to the Ephesians is a fraud, as many biblical scholars have said that Paul of Tarsus did not write it.

And just like that, the Good News was received:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has convinced the town of Sylvania, Ala., to remove four biblical welcome signs along heavily traveled city routes.

Sylvania officials have confirmed that the signs will come down today.

Wow. That’s all it took. No lawsuit. No angry words. Just a letter detailing the legal problems with the signs.

I’m sure that won’t stop local Christians from complaining that atheists are taking away rights they never even had in the first place, but it’s a victory nonetheless.

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  • joezamecki

    Good! The FFRF succeeds again. What an ugly message! And what a fascinating nation we have where these violations are so common that they end up being as diverse and wild as this. I’m glad the FFRF is out there.

  • James Reade

    I love the idea that someone can be free from religion! Fascinating.  Wikipedia seems to have a reasonable definition of “religion”: “Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity tospirituality and, sometimes, to moral values”

    Nothing is ruled out. How then can we ever be free from religion?

  • M J Shepherd

     Oh, rhetorical semantics! You get us every time.

  • “We” do not have to be free from religion.  Each person is free to believe whatever they want to believe.  But government must, by law and by moral duty, remain neutral, i.e., secular.

  • I_Claudia

    Three reasons occur to me of why this went down so fast:

    – Actual misunderstanding and honest will to make amends when it is pointed out.
    – Informed officials who looked at the meager town coffers and compared them to the cost of previous lost lawsuits.
    – Fear of angering, not the atheists, but the Christians who have doctrinal issues with that particular verse.

    I so wish I could believe it was the first reason, but past experience leads me to suspect the second and perhaps the third as well.

    On a completely different note, the fantasy fiction nerd in me loves the name Sylvania.

  • Anything that doesn’t “relate humanity to spirituality” can be ruled out. Hey, that was easy. Got any other definitions you’d like clarified?

  • Cheepak Dopra

    One lord, one faith, one baptism? That doesn’t sound similar to “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” at all!

  • Erp

     Sylvania just means woodland.  I did a search about the town.  It has a bit under 1900 inhabitants but growing; the majority are women, overwhelmingly white, not exactly well-to-do.   Several churches (Church of God, United Methodist, Baptist) though for diversity even Catholics seem to be rare (it is also in a dry county, one town allows the sale of alcohol).

  • sdorst

    I think you meant “anything that ‘relates humanity to spirituality’ can be ruled out,” but I agree completely. 

    Of course, “spirituality” is a vague concept, which can include all sorts of things. At least that definition rules out Science as being a religion!

  • sdorst

    “How then can we ever be free from religion?” – Well, try eliminating a belief in “spirituality,” for one thing. Also, question cultural systems, belief systems, and world views, rather than blindly accepting them, and be aware of the power, and danger, of symbols. If you were brought up as a believer, as I was, you might never completely free yourself from that irrational mindset, but I think doing those things is how you can work to free yourself from religion.

  • sdorst

    Wow! I never drew the connection, but you’re exactly right. That’s scary!!

  • bismarket

     Wikipedia is not ALWAYS right!

  • Religion almost always carries with it the belief in some sort of supernatural element. That’s the sort of religion we can very easily be free of. Even spirituality need not involve the supernatural.

    By leaving “supernatural” out, the definition you are using almost entirely misses the actual meaning of “religion”.

  • And the town Fathers said: “Paul didn’t write Ephesians? Get that sign down now, and find us another verse, but nothing about Mary…”

  • Stev84

     I’d settle for being free from organized religion

  • Dalillama

     I think he meant “Anything that doesn’t ‘relate humanity to spirituality'” can be ruled out as being a religion.  Therefore, it’s entirely possible to be free from that definition of religion merely by acknowledging that ‘spirituality’ has no ontological meaning.

  • Yes, precisely. And in the future, I must remember to use the word “ontological” more often.

  • Jayrenaud

    Hi James: Agreed: that definition of religion is so broad as to be meaningless. The philosopher Dan Dennett’s definition is much better and goes something like this: Religion: a social system, the adherents of which subscribe to belief in a supernatural being, and who actively seek the approval of that being.” It’s not a direct quote but near. It is important because definitions of relgion are used in the real world to establish government funding, tax exemptions etc. and the Wikipedia definition is practically useless.

  • sdorst

    OK. Sorry. I got crossed up in the negatives. I guess the rhetorical semantics got me!

  • rhodent

    Predictably, the local Fox station has a story about it on their website with the headline “Sylvania Removes Biblical Signs Due to Outside Pressure”.  [rolling eyes]

  • Rufus T Firefly

    Ambassador Trentino will be pissed. That upstart.

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