For those unaware of this relatively obscure issue affecting this extremely small town, Rienzi, MS is a town of 320 that recently received threats from an atheist organization threatening the small town with up to $500,000 in fines and litigation if they did not immediately cease flying a Christian flag over a veterans’ memorial. While the mayor of the town relented, the people of the town are getting ready to fight back, and there’s so much confusion and misinformation around this issue that some things really have to be cleared up.
Not a First Amendment Issue
The First Amendment, in full, states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The wording is not accidental. It is concise and clear, and explicitly states that Congress shall make no law. I recently criticized Trump’s Supreme Court Justice nomination because Gorsuch does not respect the separation of church and state , but the fact is that “separation of church and state” is a colloquialism not expressed anywhere in our Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Politicians and elected officials absolutely are allowed, by the letter of the law, to legislate and rule based on their personal religious beliefs. I don’t like it, and I advocate against it, but the First Amendment does not in any sense prevent it. In fact, the First Amendment cannot prevent it, as doing so would be making a law prohibiting the free exercise of the politician’s religion.
Not a Federal Issue
Even if the First Amendment did apply to the issue, it wouldn’t apply to the small town in Mississippi, because the Constitution and the Amendments apply only to the federal government. There appears to be severe misunderstanding in the United States, in that most people don’t seem to understand what the “state” part means; they appear to think that “state” is to “nation” as “county” is to “state.” This is incorrect, and a result of decades of federal encroachment on states’ rights. Mississippi is a state in exactly the same sense that Germany is a state. Just as Germany surrendered some of its autonomy in joining the European Union, so did Mississippi surrender some of its sovereignty in joining the United States.
The only Constitution that has any applicability to this issue would be the Mississippi Constitution, and the only thing it states about religion comes from Section 18:
No religious test as a qualification for office shall be required; and no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect or mode of worship; but the free enjoyment of all religious sentiments and the different modes of worship shall be held sacred. The rights hereby secured shall not be construed to justify acts of licentiousness injurious to morals or dangerous to the peace and safety of the state, or to exclude the Holy Bible from use in any public school of this state.
Quite clearly, rather than prohibiting a town from flying a Christian flag, the Mississippi Constitution states that this mode of worship must be held as sacred. When I discussed this on Facebook, someone immediately asked if I’d care if someone flew a Muslim flag over the memorial. No, I don’t really care. One idol is as bad as any other in my book, whether the idol is the Christian flag, the American Flag, or the Muslim Flag. People swearing loyalty and obedience to scraps of cloth is an issue regardless of what is on that scrap of cloth, but to what, exactly, a person gives their religious dedication isn’t my business.
A Small Town
I don’t know the demographics in this town of 320 people, but I can tell you that, based on everything I know about Mississippi, chances are that we’re looking at 99% of the population being Christian. When I pointed this out, someone said it would be fine, as long as “everyone agrees.” As long as everyone agrees? Such a ridiculously high standard is not applied to anything else that the government does. Homosexual marriage gets legalized, regardless of whether everyone agrees. Marijuana gets legalized, regardless of whether everyone agrees. Abortion gets legalized, regardless of whether everyone agrees. The implication is that the government can do anything that it wants, but if it wants to go against the dominant liberal trend, then it must have unanimous agreement and no dissent.
This is a recipe for tyranny of the minority over the majority. Because <1% of the town doesn’t want the flag to fly, the 99% are tyrannized, their desires ignored and discarded. But, of course, if the 99% wanted to legalize same sex marriage and only 1% was against it, then same sex marriage would be legalized, wouldn’t it? Because it’s not about minorities or majorities; it’s about the liberal agenda and going against it. If you want to do what the liberal wants you to do, then 1% of the population dissenting is enough to get you your way. If you want to go against what the liberal wants you to do, then 99% of the population agreeing with you isn’t enough.
Disrespectful to the Dead?
I had another atheist tell me that they found it disrespectful to the dead. An atheist said this. Speaking as an atheist, that’s fucking retarded. To the atheist, dead people are dead. They don’t have feelings that can be hurt. They can’t be disrespected, because they are inanimate, rotting matter. But, again, when it’s convenient for the liberal agenda, it’s fine for an atheist to talk about being disrespectful of the dead, even though the atheist has no rational or justifiable reason for respecting the dead in the first place.
But don’t veterans have the right to a secular burial?
Well, we’re talking about a memorial, not a graveyard. I don’t know enough to say whether there are any remains there or not, but it would help these people to know what we’re talking about. However, no. Asking for a secular burial is asking for a secular religious ceremony. Burial rites are, and have always been, religious in nature. The modern embalming process has roots deeply in religion, and so does the burial ceremony. The only truly secular way to deal with human remains is cremation; every other method will be touched by religion to some degree, and many forms of cremation are derived from religion.
It’s very much like people who have secular marriages. It’s nonsense. Marriage has two roots: political and religious. Political in the sense of royalty and nobility, and religious once it spread to the commoners. There is a case to be made that monogamy itself is a religious concept, but it doesn’t matter how far we go back when talking about marriage. It evolved into a religious ceremony, orchestrated and performed by churches. “Secular marriage” is, too, asking for a secular religious ceremony.
The first reply my post got was someone pointing out that Mississippi has the highest high school dropout rate in the nation, and telling me that I should go back to school. Putting aside the high chances that I’m more highly educated than the person who said this, it is exactly this sneering, condescending attitude that pissed off middle America and got Trump elected. “Stupid hillbillies! Bible in one hand, and guns in the other!” right? President Obama himself said that. It is an attitude widely shared among liberals, and the implication is that, because the high school drop out rate is so high, the people in this small town are uneducated and thus can’t be allowed to govern themselves. Instead, they need this educated city slicker socialite to govern them, because otherwise they’ll just keep eating lead-based paint chips.
Atheists Need To Chill
I said that atheists need to stop looking for reasons to get upset. I stand by this statement. This one atheist in this town of 320 got a stick shoved up his ass and decided that he needed to contact an atheist group with powerful attorneys and threaten this town with half a million dollars in lawsuits in order to make these 319 people bow, acquiesce, and obey this one person’s demands. Threatening this town with extortion and violence in order to make them do what you want to do, when the end states are ultimately imprisonment, if the town doesn’t back down and then refuses to pay… I think we have a word for it, when you threaten someone with extortion and violence if they don’t do what you want them to…
It’s called terrorism.
So from a transgender lesbian atheist in the state of Mississippi to another atheist in the state of Mississippi near the town of Rienzi, fuck you, you entitled, violent extortionist piece of shit. This town of 320 people has the right to govern itself. If you don’t like it, you have the right to move. Their choice to fly a flag does not injure you, does not harm you, and does not affect you. Grow up, stop being a baby, and, if you want to fight for something, pick a real issue. There are plenty for you to choose from that aren’t stupid.
The part of the Mississippi Constitution, and, indeed, the First Amendment, that you’ve overlooked is that the government cannot prevent people from freely exercising their religion. That’s what the people of Rienzi, Mississippi are doing. Stop trying to be a tyrant, and let them be free.