Friday, June 24, 2011

Banning Heaven from Street Names - Is That In the Constitution?

People across the nation were inspired by some of the heroic deeds of the first responders, as well as other police and fire personnel and various volunteers after the attacks in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. One Brooklyn firehouse lost seven firemen on that day, and they naturally want to honor them. The city named a nearby street for them: "Seven in Heaven Way."

You readers know what's coming next, right? An atheist group is complaining to the city about the sign, demanding it be changed. "Heaven" is a Christian concept, they say. Well, that's partly right. Heaven, or similar concepts using other words, are part of many religions. But Heaven is not part of atheism.

According to an article in New American:
Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission noted, "There are cities that have religious connotations in their names. Why not a street. Do they want us to rename Los Angeles, Corpus Christi, and St. Joseph?” Added Land,  "In a country where 85 percent of the people say they are Christian or claim to be Christian, should it be surprising that you name cities and streets with religious terminology?”

That makes sense to me. Our Constitution specifies (in the Bill of Rights) that Congress may not make a law establishing a religion, and the provision is being applied to our states as well after a Supreme Court decision. But clearly a street sign requires no state law to be passed; it is a decision that cities make for a variety of reasons, and such decision do not require statutes to back them up. Even if they did, there is a difference between recognizing religion and establishing a religion. We have "Armed Forces Day" each year, but every citizen is not required to be in the military, for example. And many, if not most, cities have a form of Martin Luther King on a street name (sometimes on several). But the residents of those cities are not all black.

Read more here:

Atheists Complain Over NYC Street Sign Honoring Fallen 9-11 Firemen

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