A few days ago, we learned the Nelson County Courthouse in Virginia would cover up the phrase “Virtus — Keep God’s Commandments — Veritas” which was discovered during a renovation of the old building. It was the right move since there’s no reason a secular courthouse should tell anyone to “keep God’s commandments.”
But conservative commentator Erich Reimer doesn’t see it that way. To him, this is just an example of how “secularism takes localities hostage.” Because asking local governments to follow the First Amendment is TYRANNY!
In the events of last Tuesday, one of the Nelson County supervisors specifically said that the decision was made in part to avoid what might otherwise be very expensive litigation to defend the courthouse’s design, which would deeply strain the county’s budget.
This is precisely the issue too many municipalities face. While the federal government and state governments are well-financed for lawsuits, municipalities almost always run on small budgets due to the kinds of services they provide and the revenue streams they have.
We can stop there because the argument is already dead on arrival.
Reimer acts like atheists are threatening Nelson County because it’s small, probably doesn’t have a lot of money, and will cave into their demands. That’s not the case at all. It doesn’t matter if this is a rural or urban area. It doesn’t matter how much money they have. If they’re breaking the law, they deserve to be sued — and the Freedom From Religion Foundation at least warned them of the problem so they could take action before any lawsuit was filed.
I’m familiar with a lot of church/state separation groups. I’ve spoken to their leaders and staffers. They’ve never once suggested, even in private, that they target small cities because it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. To suggest that means not knowing how they work or what their principles are.
Reimer wasn’t done yet though:
However, a municipality still may face the choice of spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars defending a federal lawsuit just to preserve the status quo, or acquiescing to the demands of those who want “freedom of religion” to be only “freedom from religion.”
Again, they don’t have to spend any money if they’re following the law. There are plenty of groups that would represent them pro bono, and if the law were truly on their side, they would win the case and owe nothing to the other side. You only lose money in situations like these when you’re on the wrong side of the law.
It’s also important to remember that atheist groups have no desire to impose atheism on government buildings. FFRF never demanded that the courthouse put the word “DON’T before “Keep God’s Commandments.” They merely said the three words were an illegal endorsement of religion — which is absolutely true — and the county should remove them. FFRF wanted religious neutrality, not an endorsement of Christianity.
Reimer seems to think the only options are promoting God… or allowing atheists to get anything they want. He forgets that it’s not the government’s job to pick sides here and that not saying anything is the best option.
You would think a man who calls himself a “commentator” would educate himself on the issue before commenting on it. Instead, he just waited till the self-righteousness bubble was ready to burst, then poured out his ignorant opinions.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)