Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Atheist says Christmas Tree recycling program violates first amendment

Officials in Chicago wanted to boost their city's "blue bag" recycling program while also encouraging people to properly dispose of their Christmas trees. They thought they'd hit upon a good solution: bring your Christmas tree to one of the city's tree-recycling locations and get a year's supply of the blue bags along with some mulch. (The blue bags normally cost about 11 cents each.)

Alas, some people aren't content to let a simple, civic program exist without finding something to complain about.
[T]rust Rob Sherman, a local activist and an atheist, to raise questions. According to him, the city's trees-for-bags swap is unfairly beneficial to Christians.

"The concern was that the city had constructed a well-intentioned program, but the effect was that only Christians had the opportunity to participate," Sherman said. "Christians had the opportunity to receive the blue bags for free. Atheists and others would have had to pay."

The city will now offer blue bags to anyone who visits one of 22 tree-recycling locations on Jan. 8 and brings a large bag of recyclable material, streets and sanitation spokesman Matt Smith said.

"We'd prefer the tree, but we're willing to permit that. We've always been flexible," Smith said. "The main thing is that we want people to recycle, and we want to keep these trees out of the waste stream."

Stories like this just leave me at a loss for words. What kind of person will look at a simple program like this and see it as a church/state separation issue? Obviously, it would have to be the kind of person for whom this kind of agitation is a lifestyle:
Sherman, best known for keeping crosses off the municipal seals of Zion and Rolling Meadows, began his campaign at 8 a.m. Monday after reading about the city's plan in the Tribune.

So he's done this sort of thing before. In fact, here's his website, where he talks about his success in changing the program "without needing to go to federal court." Yep. He threatened a lawsuit.
On behalf of a Chicago resident, Sherman called the city's law department and the Park District. At one point, Sherman said, he was told that he could bring someone else's tree and receive the blue bags.

"Atheists shouldn't have to go begging from home to home for a Christian who will sponsor them into this kind of government program," said Sherman, 51, of Buffalo Grove.

But you don't necessarily have to be a Christian to own a Christmas tree, said Fred Kniss, a professor at Loyola University who studies sociology of religion.

Not only do non-Christians put up trees for the holiday season, the tree itself is a pre-Christian symbol that represents the renewal of life, Kniss said.

"Predominantly, it's a Christian holiday, but there are a lot of secular people who buy Christmas trees and use Christmas trees in their holiday celebrations," Kniss said.

But non-Christians who own Christmas trees represent only a small minority, Sherman believes.

"The group that predominantly has Christmas trees are Christians," he said. "No self-respecting atheist or Jew or Hindu puts up a Christmas tree in their home unless they are Christian wannabes."

He's used that line before.
While celebrating the solstice might be seen as borrowing from another religion to avoid celebrating a Christian holiday, most atheists don't see it that way.

"Solstice is just a scientific moment," said Mary Jo Wood, lead organizer for Chicago Atheists, a group of a dozen or so people who connected through the online site Meetup.com. "It's not religious."

Not all atheists like the idea of marking the solstice. Well-known Chicago-area activist Rob Sherman, who battles governments to remove crosses and Nativity scenes from public property, put it this way: "Basically they're trying to be Christian wannabes, and I have no interest in being a wannabe."

But he is a wannabe. He wants to be noticed. He wants media coverage. He wants exposure.
And he's running for Illinois State Legislature, so I'm sure locals are quite familiar with this guy's antics. I guess I didn't realize there was an Anhedonia Party in Illinois.

I have very little patience for such individuals. I've got no problem with atheists per se. Live and let live. But I do have a problem with atheists who think that it's their job to remove every last vestige of religion from the public square.


At 9:30 PM, Blogger kimsch said...

Zion, Illinois is near where I live.

The City of Zion was founded in 1900 by Dr. John Alexander Dowie, a great religious leader. It was to be a city of a Christian ideal and in racial equality and intended to be a self sufficing community. His purpose in life was to honor God and do good to all within his reach. He had a master plan when he brought his followers to the city at the turn of the century.

The above is taken from Our ZionHaving a cross on the seal was part of the plan:“With my hand upon this lever, I hand to you tonight and to the generations to come a seal which contains all that Zion wants to be.

“Ordinance: Corporate Seal — That the common seal of the City of Zion shall be circular in form and be so constructed as to impress upon the paper the words Corporate Seal above and ‘The City of Zion, Illinois,’ below in the outer edge thereof, with a Zion Banner in the center, surmounted by the declaration, ‘God Reigns,’ such banner having the word ‘Zion’ below, and a dove with an olive branch above; a cross at the left, and a sword and a crown at the right, requiring that the same shall be and hereby is so declared to be the Corporate Seal of the City of Zion.

“Look at the dove, which is the emblem of the Holy Spirit bearing the message of peace and love over the seas.

“The cross represents everything to us in Redemption, Salvation, Healing, Cleansing and Keeping Power.

“The Sword is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The crown is the crown of Glory, the crown of Joy, the crown of Righteousness, the crown of Rejoicing.

“I shall pass away — at the longest it will not be long (he passed away March 9, 1907) but this seal is one that I hope will never pass away from Zion City, until the end shall come and a new heaven and a new earth be created.”

Rob Sherman was successful in getting the seal removed from Zion and the City of Zion website, but he prominently displays it on his own website. just scroll down a little.


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