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The Whiteville Cross:  Mayor Calls Atheists ‘Terrorists’
In the State of Tennessee there is a little town called Whiteville. And in Whiteville there is a public tower, upon which rests the universal symbol for christianity: the Latin Cross. Until recently Whiteville was a quaint little town, but some resident in the town has had the audacity to come forward with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and told Mayor James Bellar that if the cross was not removed from the water tower that a legal suit would follow. But here is the thing: until now, Bellar has simply been ignoring the town resident and the FFRF.

The first letter was sent to Bellar on December 8, 2010 (a copy of the letter is available here.  Two other letters followed this, but Bellar had better things to do. But now that the FFRF is threatening a legal suit over the cross, Bellar has had to concede and take it down…but he is doing so very grudgingly. And he has a number of things to say about this ordeal.

The website for WREG News in Memphis, TN quotes Bellar a number of times discussing this issue. In Bellar’s eyes, Whiteville is a religious town and that he is sorry that “we have one individual here who is offended by this”. WREG also quotes:  “As a matter of fact, I don’t even think it’s a Whiteville resident,” he said. “We don’t have people of that belief here and if we do they’re not going to raise that kind of ruckus for the rest of the town.”

But wait, there’s more. A blog article written by Todd Starnes, Bellar is quoted as saying:  “They are terrorists as far as I’m concerned,” said Mayor James Bellar about the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “They are alleging that some Whiteville resident feels very, very intimidated by this cross.”
Now, I know what my learned readers are thinking: ‘This asshat obviously doesn’t know what terrorism means.’ Bellar was kind enough, however, to provide us with an explanation of what he means by the term ‘terrorism’. According to Bellar (WREG): “A terrorist is more than a guy that flies the planes into the building,” he said. “It’s anyone who can disrupt your way of living, destroy your lifestyle, cause you anxiety. It’s more than killing people. If they can disrupt your routine in life, that’s what they want to do. They are terrorists as far as I’m concerned.”
The Establishment Clause
 is the first of several pronouncements in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, stating, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. Together with the Free Exercise Clause (“… or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”), these two clauses make up what are called the “religion clauses” of the First Amendment.

The establishment clause has generally been interpreted to prohibit
   1) the establishment of a national religion by Congress, and
   2) the preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another.

The first approach is called the “separation” or “no aid” interpretation, while the second approach is called the “non-preferential” or “accommodation” interpretation.
 The accommodation interpretation prohibits Congress from preferring one religion over another, but does not prohibit the government’s entry into religious domain to make accommodations in order to achieve the purposes of the Free Exercise Clause.

In Bellar’s eyes, even disrupting someone’s routine in life can be considered an act of terrorism: now even the most mundane of activities, including asking that the law be enforced, can be considered an act of terrorism.Chew on that for a fucking minute. That is some scary shit! Good thing his ideas about what does and does not constitute terrorism have nothing to do with legal definition and practice.

WREG also quotes who appears to be a town resident: “”I’d tell this one person who’s got a problem with it to go ahead and pack and move, and if anybody else has a problem with the cross they need to pack and move also,” said Larry Cook.
But this is not a case of someone asking for something outrageous from their municipal government: this involves a town resident asking his municipal government to enforce the law; specifically the Establishment Clause, which is summed up pretty well on Wikipedia.

It was for these reasons that FFRF attorney Alvin Harris wrote to Mayor Bellar and informed him that unless the cross was removed from public land that the FFRF would sue the Town of Whiteville. He clearly informs the mayor of the illegality of having a religious symbol, like the Latin Cross, on public land. Harris also provided Bellar with a number of references to case law which testify to the tendency of the courts to rule against municipalities such as Whiteville.

Bellar’s intention had been to challenge this in court, but the town does not have the financial means to do so. As a result, the cross is being taken down and placed on private property along a local highway. And according to WREG, with the cross on private land no one can remove it. He also believes that the cross will also be seen by many more people now.

While this may have been a win both for the law and for freedom from religion, it is just another brazen example of some christians expecting the law to conform to their own ideas of right and wrong. The United States seems to be experiencing clashes across the board with respect to the law and religion, and most of these clashes are being led by christians. It also shows just how much contempt is present in some of these christians, like Bellar, who considers this challenge to his religion to be an act of terrorism.
FFRF legal team busy defending Constitution

FFRF alerted municipal officials in Somerville and Whiteville, Tenn., to constitutional violations of displaying Christian crosses on government property.

In Dec. 8 letters, Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert reminded Somerville Mayor Bob Morris and Whiteville Mayor James Bellar that “No court of final resort has ever upheld the government’s permanent display of a Latin cross on public land as constitutional. The inherent religious significance of the Latin cross is undeniable and is not disguisable.”

The crosses atop the Somerville and Whiteville water towers are both illuminated at night.


The Whiteville Cross: Village Amputates Latin Cross
 by B I L L Y   H A L L O W E L L   3  October 27, 2011

Remember the controversial cross on a water tower in Whiteville, Tennessee? Earlier this month, the Blaze reported that Mayor James Bellar was planning to cave to atheists’ demands and have the religious symbol moved to private land.

Bellar, who defended its presence, claimed that the town could not afford to pay for an expensive legal battle with Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) — the “freethinking” group seeking its removal. Thus, moving it to a nearby highway seemed like the best possible solution.

In its new location, Bellar said it would be seen by an even larger audience. But rather than make good on this plan, the mayor decided to voice his protest to the atheists’ demands.

Instead of taking the symbol down and moving it, he ordered one of its arms be removed. So, the cross (minus one of its arms) is still standing on the top of the water tower, essentially serving as a reminder of what FFRF forced the town to do.

“This brings to close a sad chapter in the history of Whiteville that can best be described as terroristic, cowardly and shameful!,” Bellar wrote in a letter to Nashville lawyer Alvin Harris. “The fear and terror caused our older people here is shameful. So shame on your client and your firm!”
Technically, without one of its arms, the cross is no longer, well…a cross. The FFRF has called off its plans to sue Whiteville, but has dubbed the mayor’s actions “bizarre.” Of course, the group promises to continue watching to see what happens next. 

FFRF Sues Feds over Unconstitutional Tax Benefits for Christian Ministers
by B I L L Y   H A L L O W E L L   3  September 20, 2011

The atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation is picking a new battle — this time over the housing exemptions that Christian ministers are afforded by the federal government.

The organization, which has become known for taking strong stances to reinforce the “separation of church and state,” has joined three of its officers in suing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.

According to these non-believers, the exemption that is unique to clergy is unconstitutional as, in their view, it violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Madison, Wisconsin, alleges that millions of dollars goes untaxed due to these exemptions.

The ministers‘ allowance isn’t just for rent or mortgage payments. Payment for everything from closing costs to home furnishings to utilities and lawn maintenance qualifies for exemption.

Under current IRS law, preachers are paid in tax-free dollars. They are able to deduct mortgage interest and property tax payments and their allowances are not treated as typical taxable income. The laws governing these exemptions were passed back in 1954.

While FFRF stands firmly against the general notion of favorability that these individuals are allotted in the tax code, there are other issues at play. These individuals are also uncomfortable with the fact that the IRS must investigate and delve deeply into each individual’s beliefs and religious practices to ensure they qualify for the tax exemptions.

Since applying to receive minister exemptions is complex, opponents claim that it creates “excessive entanglement” between church and state — something foundations like Freedom From Religion refuse to tolerate. The Christian Post provides more context regarding why these exemptions are upsetting to atheists:

Many churches allot their ministers a housing allowance as part of their overall compensation package. Opponents of the monetary perk, like FFRF, claim nonbelieving directors should receive the same benefit.

What makes the housing allowance even more offensive to FFRF is that housing payments for ministers preaching the Gospel also are exempt from most states’ income tax.

A portion of the lawsuit reads:

Section 107 has the effect of fostering governmental entanglement with religion, precisely in order to limit the tax break provided by §107 to religious clergy; the IRS must make complex, intrusive and subjective inquiries into religious matters when applying §107 in order to limit its preferential scope to ministers of the gospel.

Section 107, both on its face and as administered by the defendants Geithner and Shulman, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and therefore the defendants should be enjoined from any further allowance of such tax benefits exclusively to ministers of the gospel.

This is not the first time the group has attempted to tackle this issue. The Post reports that the group voluntarily dismissed a similar lawsuit back in June based out in Sacramento, California.

John Witte, director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University in Atlanta, doesn’t think the case is going to go very far.

“This is a pretty easy case,” he said. “I think the Supreme Court has made it clear that tax exemption cases are for the legislature, not for the courts, to decide.”

... And the Legislature is NOT a governmental body (sic), so it's OK for it to decide if a Latin Cross is a religious symbol or not ~ ED.


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