PRESS RELEASE: Wilson County TN Fair's "God and Country Day" and church program discount discriminatory and likely constitutional violation

This is a reprint of an item I got from American Atheists. A few papers picket it up. -- Micah


AMERICAN ATHEISTS, INC.
Office of the National Affiliate Outreach Director & Alabama State Director
http://www.atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/al/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: AUG 06, 2008

For more information, please contact:
Blair Scott, National Affiliate Outreach Director and Alabama State Director, (256) 701-6265, bscott@atheists.org

WILSON COUNTY TN FAIR'S "GOD AND COUNTRY DAY" AND CHURCH PROGRAM DISCOUNT DISCRIMINATORY AND LIKELY CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATION

Wilson County's Fair Office has made August 17th "God and Country Day" at the fair with a tribute to military personnel. In addition, they are offering a $2 discount for anyone bringing a church bulletin.

The official government endorsement of a religious event at the fair and giving special discount only to Christian citizens is likely a violation of the Tennessee (Article I, Section 3) and Federal Constitutions (Establishment Clause). Providing a discount only for churchgoers is a clear form of discrimination against anyone attending non-Christian churches, Atheists, and other non-theist citizens of Wilson County and the surrounding areas.

When asked why Wilson County was discriminating against non-Christian citizens, a Wilson County Fair Office representative stated, "That is just God and Country day and promoting that event." The representative continued, "That's one of the discounts for that Sunday for people that do attend church."

Blair Scott, the National Affiliate Outreach Director for American Atheists said, "It is unfortunate that Wilson County has decided to specifically endorse and promote Christianity through this program and discriminate against its non-Christian citizens. I was disappointed when the Fair Office stated they did not see this as discrimination."

Mr. Scott, along with Secular Life Nashville, North Alabama Freethought Association, and Florence United Non-Theists will be gathering at the fair on August 17th wearing T-shirts to support Foxhole Atheists during the tribute to military personnel at the fair. Additionally, area Atheists will be bringing print-outs of their group Web Pages and asking for the $2 discount on admission. Invitations to participate have been sent to other Atheist groups throughout the United States.

AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for nonbelievers, works for the total separation of church and state, and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.

American Atheists, Inc.
PO BOX 158
Cranford, NJ 07016
Tel: (908) 276-7300
Fax: (908) 276-7402

Tags: american atheists, discrimination, event, press release

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Replies to This Discussion

Here's the description of the event, copied verbatim from the Wilson County Fair website.

God and Country Day
Sunday, August 17, 2008
2:00 p.m. in the Pageant Pavilion


Join us in honoring those who are currently serving our country and those who have previously served. Help us show strong support for the men and women of Wilson County who are faithfully serving our country through their military service. We also want to honor those who have completed their service. Let’s stand with our military personnel and their families.

Bring your church bulletin (one for each person) for the weekend of August 17, 2008 and receive $2.00 off adult admission on Sunday.

For information about God and Country Day, contact Cheryl Lewis by phone by calling (615) 449-3724 or e-mail at clewis0120@yahoo.com.


It looks to me like a poor choice of words and a really obscure way of offering a discount for a day that's intent is to show support for the military. No mention of celebrating jesus or anything religious beyond the naming and stupid discount idea. Why the obvious moniker of "Support our Troops Day" or something along those lines wasn't used is bit obtuse. These people, in a sense, have shot themselves in the foot (likely unintentionally) but I don't see how anyone could construe this as malicious.

It's a week away. I assume they'll drop church bulletin for discount, change the name of the event and issue a generic "oops, sorry" kind of response.
My understanding is that they are going to honor a discount for a printed atheist group website.

My understanding (second hand) is that they are not going to change anything else.
Here is another press release to update the situation. -- Micah

AMERICAN ATHEISTS, INC.
Office of the National Affiliate Outreach Director & Alabama State Director http://www.atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/al/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: AUG 11, 2008

For more information, please contact:
Blair Scott, National Affiliate Outreach Director and Alabama State Director, (256) 701-6265, bscott@atheists.org

ATHEISTS HAIL DECISION BY WILSON COUNTY TN FAIR TO OFFER "CHURCH BULLETIN" DISCOUNT TO RELIGIOUS AND NON-RELIGIOUS CITIZENS

Hale Moss, the President of Wilson County Promotions advised reporters at the Lebanon Democrat that printouts from Web Pages of non-religious groups would be honored at all ticketing booths to receive the "church bulletin" discount at the Wilson County Fair's "God and Country Day" on August 17th 2008.

Blair Scott, the National Affiliate Outreach Director for American Atheists said, "I am exceptionally glad to hear about Mr. Moss' decision. I am pleased to hear that Wilson County had made the decision to honor all groups regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliation. I was excited to pass this information on to non-religious groups in Lebanon, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Huntsville, Birmingham, and even nationally."

Atheists around the region are ecstatic about the news that they will not be discriminated against and will receive equal discount and treatment as religious citizens.

Mr. Scott, along with atheists from across the region, including Secular Life Nashville, North Alabama Freethought Association, and Florence United Non-Theists will continue their plan to gather at the Wilson County Fair on August 17th to support Foxhole Atheists. Area Atheists will be wearing t-shirts supporting Foxhole Atheists proudly serving in our nation's military branches.

AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for nonbelievers, works for the total separation of church and state, and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.

American Atheists, Inc.
PO BOX 158
Cranford, NJ 07016
Tel: (908) 276-7300
Fax: (908) 276-7402
ah ha! nice!

So does that mean they're just dropping the ticket price by 2 bucks for the day? Sounds like it.
You still have to have something printed in order to get the discount. I'm not sure about the range of acceptable printouts. It is a victory no less.
A seemingly small one but for the cause of awareness I'd say it's pretty sizable. I took a read over the fair website and it looks like they attract a good number of people year to year. Hopefully a few will have their minds opened at least slightly.

I do think it's a shame they feel it appropriate (or necessary) to liken religious recognition with the military but kudos to Cheryl Lewis and those involved for making the decision to recognize all faiths (and the lack thereof) within their community.

I've got a link to Operation Foxhole Atheists on my podcast blog and I'll be mentioning the group from now on in hopes of raising a bit of awareness. I don't have much traffic as yet but it's something. There's been some talk among Minnesota Atheists to have a donation/fund-raising drive for the cause as well. Should it be organized I'll certainly be promoting it here and abroad.

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