• This Jewish Atheist Responds to the FFRF Holocaust Memorial Controversy

    The Freedom from Religion Foundation recently got press for voicing their opposition to the use of the Star of David on a Holocaust memorial to be built at the Ohio statehouse.

    In a letter to Richard Finan, chair of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, and a former Ohio Senator, FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor make the case. The following paragraphs make up the key argument for me:

    Even if the symbol is viewed in the context of a memorial honoring victims of an atrocious genocide, it ignores the fact that there were other victims of the Holocaust. Thus, it gives the impression that only the Jewish victims of the Holocaust are being honored by the state. Id. at 235. There were five million non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma Gypsies, resisters to the Nazi regime, Catholic priests and Christian pastors, homosexuals, the disabled, and Africans who were brought to Gern1any following World War I. If the memorial included only a pink triangle, it would appear to honor homosexual victims of the Holocaust above all others. Similarly, including the Star of David so prominently in the targeted by the Nazis during World War II. A reasonable observer could conclude that the government only cares about the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, not Christian, nonreligious, or other non-Jewish victims.

    The monument could resemble numerous powerful war memorials across the U.S. which do not use any sectarian images: including the National World Wru: II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Each is secular in nature and without religious reference, which offends no one and is respected by all. The lack of religious imagery within those memorial designs neither diminishes their significance nor detracts from the respect and honor shown for the victims of those conflicts.

    FFRF would like to emphasize that we have no objection to the State hosting a memorial to honor victims of the Holocaust and Ohioan veterans who helped liberate Nazi concentration camps. FFRF’s own membership includes veterans of World War II and Holocaust survivors. Our contention is that memorials designated by state governments, particularly anything displayed at the seat of state government, should remain free from sectarian religious imagery.

    I admit being ready to disagree with the FFRF on this issue because I would have argued that the Star of David operates more like a cultural symbol than a religious one. Barker and Gaylor’s well-documented letter disabuse of this notion to some extent. I believe the Star is most properly a symbol of not-necessarily-religious Jewish identity but that it also has definitely been used to convey the religious part too: we Jews have tried to have it — and often have had it — both ways.

    As an atheist by way of Judaism, I am very proud of the FFRF and the position they have taken. Their argument deserves to be heard and considered seriously. The human affront that was the Holocaust — one of way too many genocidal assaults in history — had a scope beyond Jews, and where it concerned Jews it did so at the level of race or ethnicity, not mere religion. The Holocaust stands in my mind as an attack on cultural diversity, an attack in which the state itself was the instrument of force and persecution.

    A Star of David may not be a “sacred religious” symbol, as Barker and Gaylor argue it is. I have never been taught to think of the Star as religiously significant and I never have considered it as such. Nevertheless, for purposes of the Holocaust memorial at the proposed site in Ohio, the Star promotes a too-simplistic and unbalanced view of what the Holocaust actually was in history and why it must be known to all.

    I urge everyone to read the FFRF’s position on this issue, and to support them in their efforts.

     

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    Article by: Larry Tanner

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    • RussellBlackford

      Are they actually arguing that it’s unconstitutional? If so, the case as you’ve presented it so far sounds weak to me, and perhaps you’re not even trying to make such a case. The question is whether Judaism as a religion is somehow being imposed or endorsed by the state, and I don’t see that it is.

      The memorial in its currently proposed form might still be a bad idea, of course.

      • lartanner

        No, they don’t make a direct issue of unconstitutionality. I also wouldn’t make that case. To me, the strength of the argument is that the (1) Star has a clear and present religious dimension in context, and (2) its prominence distorts the full scope of the Holocaust’s horror and significance by implying that it should be thought of primarily as a “Jewish tragedy.”

        I do not think FFRF sees the ‘imposition or endorsement of religion’ generally as the problem here; rather I believe they see that the Star’s prominence promotes a religion-based interpretation of historical event whose origins and execution were primarily about matters other than specific beliefs.

        The memorial itself is a great idea. History makes such an important guide, but it does no good — and can do harm — if real events get truncated down past accuracy. Many people were targeted for annihilation in the German camps: they were targeted for who they were, and in other cases for actions/behaviors they took. If we are going to remember the Holocaust, honor those who died and those who survived, and pay tribute to the soldiers who liberated the camps and witnessed up-close what people can do to one another, then we should do it right — no bias and no shortcuts.

    • This is a long comment.
      My bias: I am a Jewish atheist. I do not go along with the belief in a supernatural being who answers prayers and runs things; but I never deny that I am also Jewish. Some people don’t feel comfortable with the terminology “ethnic Jew,” but it best describes me, along with “gustatory Jew.” I also understand that the Old Testament is full of horror stories about what boils down to genocide, ie Sodom & Gomorrah. But the Holocaust happened in the 20th Century in a modern society. The poignancy is that the generation who lived through it, survivors and perpetrators, are almost all gone now. The memorials and museums are very important, and here’s why: I don’t think it was revisionism, but the holocaust was barely a footnote in my history books in school; it was not mentioned in the sections that discussed WWII. I didn’t even know about it until I was in college. My parents didn’t talk about it. Finally, an Israeli friend took me to a movie, Night & Fog, a French film documentary with footage about the concentration camps. He had to explain it to me.

      I saw a discussion about the American Atheists and FFRF response to the proposed Ohio memorial on a Patheos blog, Camels with Hammers. I’ve been commenting on the blog writer’s facebook thread about it.

      It’s hard to reconcile. The deaths in the holocaust of others who were not Jewish is significant and should not be forgotten, they are included in a plaque that is attached to the proposed monument. A large monument without a Star of David would seem to be the choice to quiet down the Atheist community’s objections to the monument. I will still always see the holocaust as targeting – yet again – the Jewish people; scapegoating the Jews for the economic crisis in Europe; ethnic cleansing included others: Roma gypsies, gays, political dissidents, mental health patients, anyone who wasn’t Aryan. But in Poland, the Warsaw ghetto was for Jews. The Italians and Spanish turned over their Jews. It took time for the nazis to perfect their Final Solution; they started out with trucks and exhaust fumes, and worked their way up to trains, slavery, concentration camps, medical experiments, showers with gas, and ovens to incinerate the bodies. Meanwhile, the Americans dithered about isolationism, and FDR had to wait for the bombing of Pearl Harbor before entering the war. Think of the lives that could have been saved. I have suspected that if it had been another group, say the Presbyterians, instead of the Jews, America would have been in that war in a New York minute.

      Dan Fincke’s argument is that the memorial is not a violation of the establishment clause because merely having the Star of David on the memorial is not exhorting anyone to become Jewish. There is no such symbol that so readily reminds us of the loss of gays and others in the holocaust. Some people see it as giving leverage to those who would want to see more religious symbols on government land. Where I live, in California, there are loads of Spanish missions up and down the coast that represent the foothold of Catholicism in the New World; there is even a cross on a hillside in Hollywood that bothers me every year.

      http://articles.latimes.com/1996-02-26/local/me-40250_1_cahuenga-pass

      But here’s my argument that sums up my disagreement with AA and FFRF: I went to a Palm Sunday Mass about twenty years ago because it was the Sunday service that was the memorial for the mother of a friend of mine. I heard for the first time what xtians hear every year about how the Jews were responsible for the death of their Jesus. It was shocking, but it explained why the xtians hate the Jews so much – and for that reason, it was easy to put the nazi machinery in motion to execute those who could be blamed for the torture and crucifixion of Jesus. It was not merely the SS that carried out the Final Solution; it was also bystanders who allowed it to happen. There were heroes who risked their lives by rescuing Jews: Oskar Schindler, Irena Sendler and others – but there were many who just thought it was normal and obeyed the law of their country by turning in their neighbors, working as bureaucrats keeping careful records of the names and ages of those who were tortured and killed by the nazis. They didn’t see anything wrong with the eradication of the Jews. So I don’t see anything wrong with a Star of David being on that monument. I may not be a pure enough Atheist for some – but I bet I’m not the only one who feels the way I do for roughly the same reasons.

      • John Coyne

        You obviously are not Jewish. I suppose your proper name is fool’s Jewish.

        • Jerry Coyne: I had to read this article and my response over again to try to remember why it evoked an answer, and my strong feelings at the time. Although I was not especially articulate, why do you say “fool’s Jewish”?

    • Pingback: Thoughts on the Ohio Holocaust Memorial | Background Probability()

    • Lucifer Light

      The star of david IS a religious symbol – to the Jews – shut up and sit down. They never shut the F up. Hypocrites.

      • lartanner

        Those Nazis always get such a bad rap!

        • Lucifer Light

          Germans didnt call themselves ‘nazis’ That is an ashkeNazi Jew press invention, they called themselves National Socialists. Germans were maligned by the Jewish presses for well over a century, they have to lie to cover up their blood thirsty treachery in Russia and Ukraine. hundreds millions died because of Jews and their financing revolution. They have to, they have no homeland, as they kept getting kicked out of every country in Europe. Like Hitler said, “Let America deal with the Jews” and here we are going right down the drain. Any questions fuckhead ?

          • lartanner

            Yes, I have a question: Will you marry me? I think I love you.

            • Lucifer Light

              Lets entertain this remotest fantasy of yours – 1) you would have to be female 2) you must be drop dead gorgeous (I have face calipers to measure your honker . . .) with big tits and ass, around 5’8″ but petite works if proportioned correctly. Then you must like to be dominated by a large white uncircumcised penis. Which you’ll love, because every jewish woman I give the gift to, laments as to “what they have been missing”. The Foreskin was God’s gift to women for nothing else but pleasure. Its the biggest mistake jewish men ever make.
              ps- I dont wear “nazi” tattoos, because I am not a ‘nazi, only Jews are AshkeNazis. But if I were German, I probably would be a rabid pro German Nationalist, very much like the racist zionists are. Sans tattoos. I think “neo nazis” are fucking idiots.

            • lartanner

              Have you grown up yet or are you still an intolerable, self-loathing douchebag?

            • Lucifer Light

              Not me, I still have my foreskin and you dont. Loser.

            • lartanner

              Your mom has my foreskin.

            • Lucifer Light

              Typical kike response. Cant you jews ever be original? What’s the matter the rabbis suck too much blood out of your simian sized cock ?

            • lartanner

              Fun fact: I pronounce “kike” as kee-kee.

              I have to tell you, Lucy, I’m interested in your story. Are you like some American Midwest 20-something with no job or prospects, a suburban teen playing rebel, or a trust-fund baby with a dark life your wife doesn’t even know?

              Any chance you want to share something of who you really are? Your call, of course. Your comments make utterly no difference in my life, though I will promise to toast you while I’m sitting back relaxing on Father’s Day.

            • Lucifer Light

              How did you know , Kiki? You are so smart !

            • lartanner

              Sigh. You are perhaps the least fun Nazi on the internet.

        • Lucifer Light

          Hitler was far to kind with the Jews, He should have done what the communist done, just put a fucking bullet in your head and throw you in a pit. Far more efficient.

      • John Coyne

        There is nothing in the Constitution about displaying religious symbols on public land. Saying “shut up and sit down” violates their right to free speech and to express their religion.

        • Lucifer Light

          Fucking jews do it all time you pig

    • Lucifer Light

      The “gassing of 6 million Jews” has been proven repeatedly to be a LIE. Im sick of hearing it. Jews didnt suffer as much as they cry about; they are pathological liars.

      • lartanner

        You sound bitter. Life goin’ well for ya?

        Stupid and angry is no way to go through life, son.

        • Lucifer Light

          Idiot, you are not looking at the facts in evidence, it has nothing to do with “bitter” but it is typical Jewish pathological narcissism. They are a group collective psychopaths who are pathological liars, and they have to be they are complete and total frauds. the gassing of 6 million Jews is a myth. Right along with lampshades and soap made from Jews,

          • lartanner

            I bet you have all sorts of cool swastika tats and listen to death metal and stuff. I admire you.

            • Lucifer Light

              and Ill bet you have a very small penis that was cut. Foreskins were meant for pleasuring women, did you know that ? Probably not because you are a faggot.

            • lartanner

              Whoa, a small penis and a homosexual insult all in one post? Why don’t you also tell me about how your big brother is gonna beat me up. I am so laughing at how stupid and pathetic you are. Here is what I want you to do. As you go through your daily routine, whatever useless things you do, just occasionally pause and remember that I am laughing at you specifically.

            • Lucifer Light

              You laugh because you are mentally ill ! Its one of those genetic defects of narcissist sadistic joos where you cant help yourself. You also make no sense when you write. You are the pathetic fraud with your typical Joo insults and NO substance. Your “laughing” doesn’t work on me, you pig cunt, because its so predictably expected from you useless eaters. But yes, you laugh because you people are heartless and cruel and have no empathy for anyone else but your slimey asshole selves. Losers. Get a real job, actually make something with your hands, repair something, make the world a better place. Dont kill a Palestinian child or mother, you worthless sociopaths bring NOTHING of value to this planet. Nothing.

            • lartanner

              You still seem upset. Let’s cool this down. Now, what is it you do for a living, and where? Are you married? Are you a parent? You seem to hold a lot of anger toward Jews/Joos. How long has this been so?

              Do you know that I am an atheist and actually do not practice Judaism?

            • Lucifer Light

              This so called “holocaust” reparations is predicated on fraud and lies. The narrative towards Germans and WWII are lies, and the record needs to be set straight. Other than that I sleep well at night, where ever I sleep. I dont answer stupid personal questions. Just to be clear Ill reiterate – The narrative of the holocaust does not meet facts in evidence of the physical reality. Its bullshit.

            • lartanner

              Well, then thanks for sharing. Anything else?

      • survivors grandson

        I am not jewish,I am romani{gypsy} Sorry to burst your bubble,there Heinrich,but it happened. My Grandfather was at Treblinka,and was at one point a sonderkommando. Prisoners made to move the bodies. He lost his entire family. Mother,father and four siblings. I can send you some old photos!!!

      • John Coyne

        What you have said is simply not true.

    • John Coyne

      There’s nothing the FFRF can say or do that will make me dislike them more after this. This is the last straw. Why do they feel the need to resist this?

    • Lucifer Light

      Jews are a cursed people. A plague on the planet. They are shiftless and niggardly. They have verbal diarrhea, are pathologically negative and never shut the fuck up.