Skepticism

Atheists Sue Over a Priest Visiting an Animal Shelter

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Transcript:

Separation of church and state is vitally important here in America. It protects both religious and nonreligious people from discrimination on the part of the government, ensuring that no one religion is endorsed over another. I believe that we must take absolutely every step available to us to ensure strict adherence to this guiding principle of the United States.

Unless that requires suing someone because you’re angry a priest went to the animal shelter and prayed for the animals there.

That’s what American Atheists are doing, which is funny because I thought they already eradicated religion in 2010 with poorly designed billboards telling people that Jesus is a myth. So I’m not sure why this animal-loving priest even continues to exist, let alone why he is visiting an animal shelter to bless dogs and cats and rabbits in the hopes that they will find homes. But that’s exactly what he did, in an annual display that appears to cost zero tax dollars or even bother the shelter staff, but which does appear to draw attention to the animals in need and remind Catholics that Saint Francis of Assisi would have adopted.

It appears that this event literally has no downsides, but wait until you hear what happened to American Atheists member Candice Yaacobi, who happened to visit the shelter on the same day as the blessing: she was “forced” to see a priest. I mean, she wasn’t forced to sit down and talk with the priest, or interact with him at all. And she knew the event was happening since she saw it on the shelter’s Facebook page and informed American Atheists about it, so she wasn’t actually even surprised to see the priest. But I’m sure that was literally the only day, and in fact the only 90-minute stretch, during which she could have gone to the shelter to adopt the dog that I’m sure she really, truly wanted to adopt. Literally the only day she could go was on a Wednesday between 1:30pm and 3pm. According to the complaint, seeing the priest at the shelter “sent Candice the message that the BCAS and Bergen County regarded her as inferior to those citizens who happened to adhere to the favored religious view.”

I’m no lawyer, so hey, maybe the American Atheists have a good case, here. Or maybe, this would only actually be a serious violation of church and state if the shelter hosted the priest but refused to allow an atheist to swing by for 90 minutes on a Wednesday to talk to the animals about, I don’t know, evolution? Maybe point out to the pugs that their respiratory problems are the tragic result of humanity’s “intelligent design”? I don’t know, just a thought. Because for a government to not elevate one religion over another, they can either not allow any mention of any religion ever, or they can allow all religions to have equal representation.

And having volunteered for shelters, and having adopted many pets from shelters, I can say with near 100% certainty that if 364 different religious sects wanted to volunteer to come to the shelter for 90 minutes on the other days of the year, to pose for photos, give the animals attention, and encourage their fellow adherents to adopt, they would absolutely allow that. Absolutely. Because everything is about getting those animals out of the shelter and into happy, loving homes.

If American Atheists spent money on doing that, instead of on lawyers pestering the shelter employees with a stupid lawsuit, maybe I’d start donating to them in addition to my donations to my local animal shelters. I won’t hold my breath.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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1 Comment

  1. November 30, 2017 at 9:19 pm —

    Sigh. One really hopes that the details of this are more complicated than they seem. This smacks of the recent case with the guy that would sell a premade cake, but not make one, and decorate it with something he disagreed with (which, again, I hope is something more complicated than it first seems, like his having agreed, contracted to do it, then reneging in some unresolvable way). There is a vast difference between wanting “fair” treatment and demanding someone else bend to accommodate you, at their own, or someone elses expense. I might not like, can’t condemn someone for saying, “You can buy something from me, but.. there are some things I won’t specifically make.”, vs., “Get lost, I won’t sell you anything at all.” Businesses do this all the damn time.

    Same here – its all well and good to dislike religion, or priests, and even find the antics of one of them silly and absurd, but.. implying they have no right to be there being silly and absurd, because it offends you… WTF? When did bunch of atheist join the GOP constitutionalism that insist that “freedom of speech = the freedom to not have other people offend me.”

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