In 2010, we will see that no substantive progress has been made in cracking the wall that keeps atheists out of public office.
This is because no substantive work is being done towards that end, and is foolish to expect that it will happen by magic or as a gift from some supernatural entity looking down and bestowing blessings on the atheist community. It is an end that will only come from hard work. However, no work is being done towards that end.
Just to be clear, I do not think that anybody should be elected to public office because he is an atheist. Some people who call themselves atheists are . . . well . . . rather frightening.
However, am I really supposed to believe that, in this country, there is only one atheist qualified to hold public office at the national level, and none qualified to sit in a state legislature or as governor of any state?
The campaign to change the way that people think about atheists would not be a campaign to get people elected to public office because they are atheists. It would be a campaign to remove the barriers that keep people out of office because they are atheists.
Such a campaign would have to include substantive protests against the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Motto. Those protests need a new focus.
If the focus continues to be on the separation of church and state, then we can expect the effect of the next 40 years to be substantively the same as the effect of the last 40 years. It's a losing battle. This tactic has been turned into a rallying cry against the Constitution and the idea of separation of church and state that poses a real threat of tearing down that wall.
Support for the separation of church and state is weakening, and anything that is built on that foundation is likely to collapse with it.
The tactic should shift to focus on discrimination itself. "How dare you begin any civic ceremony with a statement that equates a lack of support for a nation under God with succession, tyranny, and injustice?
It is not enough to refuse to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. This act merely brands the person who performs it as anti-American and worthy of contempt. Remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance, and you are unfit to hold public office. The message is simple. Its effect is discriminatory.
It actually reinforces the message that the Pledge, with the words 'under God' is designed to deliver - the message that only those who believe in God are to be counted as true and loyal Americans.
It is necessary to actively protest the Pledge of Allegiance as discriminatory.
The Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office. Yet, the Pledge of Allegiance itself – the willingness to support a nation under God – is a de facto religious test for public office in almost all parts of the country.
It is necessary to actively protest the Pledge of Allegiance as hate-speech as written, because that is precisely what it is. It equates a lack of support for a nation under God with succession, tyranny, and injustice. We are supposed to hate succession, tyranny, and injustice. Therefore, the lesson that we are to draw from the Pledge of Allegiance is that we are also supposed to hate those who do not support a nation under God.
It is also necessary to protect the national motto, 'In God We Trust' as hate speech. For all practical purposes, what it says is that, "If you do not trust in God, you are not one of us." It is an instruction, direct from the U.S. government to all of its citizens, to consider anybody who does not trust in God as an outsider.
"If you trust in God, you are one of us. If you do not trust in God, you are one of them."
There is an unfortunate tendency for people to abuse the concept of hate speech. To some theists, the phrase, "I am an atheist" spoken within earshot of others counts as hate speech. The very fact that somebody actually states, "I do not think your God exists" is considered an attack on their religion - an attack that they seek to condemn and to silence by calling it hate speech.
However, the fact that this term is so widely abused does not imply that NOTHING legitimately counts as hate-speech.
I define hate-speech as any speech that blatantly and unjustly labels a particular group of people as worthy of hate. "I do not think your God exists" is not hate speech. If it were, than any statement of disagreement - any time a person says, "No, I think you are mistaken" - would have to be condemned as hate speech.
However, equating a lack of support for a nation under God with succession, tyranny, and injustice qualifies as hate speech.
Telling the people of the United States that a person has to trust in God to count as one of us, and a person who does not trust in God is to be thought of as one of them qualifies as hate speech.
As long as hate is our national motto, and children are encouraged to promise (pledge) to practice hate in our schools, and as long as civic ceremonies begin with a message of hate, the barrier between atheists and public office will remain substantially intact.