I am the “Jennifer” who wrote the letter to Mr. Klawon. First, I wanted to thank those who supported the sentiments I expressed and voiced their support here. Second, I wanted to issue a sincere apology to everyone at the Center For Inquiry for erroneously confusing the organization with the actions of the National Atheist Party. It was an honest mistake caused by simple rushing and carelessness and I felt truly awful (and a bit panicked) for my oversight. To be clear, I have the utmost respect for the Center For Inquiry and would never intentionally to do anything to malign the organization’s activities or reputation. Though the error was ultimately corrected, I did not want to take the chance that such confusion would perpetuate itself and have since deleted my Atheist Nexus account and with it, all mention of the Center for Inquiry. If I can do anything further to clarify the situation, I will be happy to do so.
In response to a question posted here, I have every reason to believe Mr. Klawon did indeed receive my letter, as well as a subsequent email I sent, because the National Atheist Party did something which, in my opinion, was rather nasty. Allow me to explain….
In the last few days, I had engaged in some discussion with other members of the Atheist Nexus regarding how to respond to proselytizers from Christian groups who have openly announced their intention to witness to attendees. It is my personal opinion that it is disrespectful for proselytizers to attend the Rally with that express purpose and there were several commenters who agreed. If a theist attends the Rally with the sincere intention to understand and learn about the atheist community, I welcome their presence. I would very happily engage anyone who acknowledges our position and sincerely seeks to understand it better; what I do not appreciate is theists who approach, Bible in hand, with the intention of “saving” me, or those who bring a hateful message with the intention of being disruptive. Where these folks are concerned, I sometimes find it hard to hide my irritation. When the announcement was made that the WBC was attending, a few of us came up with ideas for how to give our irritation a positive spin. A few people suggested that they did not intend to engage with proselytizers at all; others suggested handing out humorous Bible “warning labels,” while others thought it might be useful to actually engage them for a few minutes. One commenter, however, mentioned that he’d heard of a town where the KKK canceled a rally after town residents announced their intention to donate money to civil rights organizations for every minute that the Klan marched. I thought it was brilliant and it seemed like something that could be applied to both the generic proselytizers as well as the WBC. l then suggested the idea for “Bibles for Bucks” and set up a Facebook page suggesting that, for each proselytizer who approaches, attendees make a donation to a freethinking group of their choice (ex. $5 per proselytizer, payable to *name your group*. I even suggested making a matching donation to a gay rights group in honor of WBC. Whether you agree with this approach or not (and I totally respect your opinion if you don’t), I had the best of intentions - to provide a rather lighthearted way of responding to proselytizers while simultaneously helping our community.
I tweeted the site to a few people and sent a copy of the link to Mr. Klawon, with the suggestion that perhaps it was a way to “make lemonade out of lemons.” I was absolutely stunned when someone alerted me to this response from the NAP:
Personally, this seems retaliatory. For the record, characterizing the intent as “anti-theist” is about as far off the mark as one could get. I am married to a church-going theist and he was planning to attend the Rally. He wants to attend because, though he differs in faith, he believes in the importance of science education, firmly supports the separation of church and state, loves listening to Dawkins and Krauss and wanted to support his wife. Not only did he find the “Bibles for Bucks” idea amusing, but he even suggested we get copies of the U.S. Constitution to hand out to approaching proselytizers, with relevant portions regarding religious freedom highlighted; he actually had a box of them delivered to our house. There are many theists out there like my husband and in my opinion, it is these people to whom we should be “reaching across the aisle” and with whom we should be fostering solidarity.
On one hand, I am amused that the National Atheist Party feels so threatened by a Facebook page that got a grand total of 3 “Likes” in a 24-hour period; they are tilting at windmills to an extent that makes them look even more ridiculous than their WBC caper already did. But I am extremely disturbed by their apparent belief that their opinions should dictate the tenor of the entire Rally and their incredibly arrogant assertion that they have any authority at all to condone or “condemn” actions taken by individual atheists to express their beliefs. What makes the NAP think it’s a good idea for an atheist organization to “condemn” free speech? Isn’t that very accusation something we are trying to overcome in the theist community? Is the NAP now out to convict fellow atheists of “thoughtcrime?” Are they now in the business of silencing like-minded individuals who prefer to approach atheist issues differently?
The NAP’s rhetoric about “open dialogue” equates to mild-boggling hypocrisy, not only in light of their response to “Bibles for Bucks” but in light of their own admission that the Westboro invitation was primarily a publicity stunt. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/03/14/national-atheist-party-responds-to-criticism-about-inviting-westboro-baptist-church-to-reason-rally/ There is simply no sincerity behind their intention to engage in any kind of productive dialogue, but a very clear intention to engage in self-aggrandizing behavior that damages the atheist community as a whole.
To be honest, I have felt so disheartened at the behavior I have witnessed over the last few days that I have pretty much decided to withdraw from the atheist community entirely and as of right now, both my husband and I have decided not to attend the Rally. If you know of anyone who wants a really cheap ticket to the ensuing convention in Bethesda, you are welcome to it. As for the NAP, if it is their intention to drive away both atheists and THEISTS who might otherwise be supportive, congratulations - that’s two down.
Again, I sincerely apologize for any harm I might have caused with my previous postings.