Leading Atheist Legal Activist and Candidate for Alabama Attorney General

Has Some Rather Interesting Views About Jews, Zionism, and the Holocaust: Larry Darby is apparently a pretty prominent atheist legal activist. He was the president of the Atheist Law Center (though he has since stepped down to run for public office); filed amicus briefs in the Supreme Court's Ten Commandments cases on behalf of various atheist groups and also on behalf of Scouting for All; ran the Alabama chapter of American Atheists; got the Atheist of the Year award from American Atheists; has been quoted in various newspapers, mostly in Alabama but also elsewhere; and has appeared on various television programs in connection with his opposition to Judge Roy Moore's actions related to the Ten Commandments. Darby is now running in the June 2006 Democratic primary for Alabama Attorney General — I suspect that he has little chance of winning, but I take it that he'll want to use the race as a platform for expressing his various views, which include juvenile law reform and decriminalization of marijuana.

Mr. Darby also (1) apparently wrote that "David Duke is right on with the problem of Zionism and the Zionist-Occupied Government we live under," (2) seems quite interested in whether media representatives who contact him about such matters are Jewish, and (3) was substantially involved in organizing a speech by noted Holocaust denier David Irving.

I first heard about this when an acquaintance of mine e-mailed me an exchange that included Mr. Darby's "Zionist-Occupied Government" quote. I then e-mailed Mr. Darby to verify the quote. (I had and still have no reason to question my correspondent's veracity, but I thought that checking would be a good idea.) The closest Mr. Darby came to denying the accuracy of the quote is when he eventually said — after an exchange of several e-mails — "Know that what you sent to me as represented by [my correspondent] is not authentic," which seemed to me like a somewhat coy way of addressing whether Mr. Darby indeed said the "Zionist-Occupied Government" item.

I then followed up by asking "My question was simply whether you did or did not e-mail the text I asked you about. Did you or didn't you?" He didn't respond to that question, but instead insisted that I tell him whether I was a Zionist and a Trotskyite. Mr. Darby's e-mails to me also included the following, which further leads me to think that my correspondent indeed accurately quoted the "Zionist-Occupied Government" line:

[F]or the record, Dr. David Duke does offer insight into the neoconservative or Trotskyist government in Washington, DC. Some of what he has been saying for years is bearing out in the news today. Have you ever read anything of Duke's your self? I'm sure he'd talk to you. Write him at www.davidduke.com and find out for yourself. And read what he really says for yourself, without relying on what Jewish Supremacists say about him.

Have you been keeping up with all the Zionists (Jews and Jewish-Christians) being arrested by the FBI? I know it hasn't made mainstream media, but it is happening and expectations are that when Kidan turns evidence against Uber-Zionist Abramoff, some other members of Congress might be indicted. Those are only two of several people arrested.

If you aren't keeping up with those issues, then likely you won't be able to understand that Dr. Duke knows what he's talking about when it comes to Jewish Supremacism and Zionism. . . .

Earlier in the exchange, Mr. Darby had also asked me whether I was a "MOT," which he later elaborated to "MOT refers to Member of Tribe. In other words, are you a Jew?" A quick Internet search revealed to me Mr. Darby's invitation of David Irving.

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It seems to me very important that irreligious people participate in public debate, to defend the legitimacy of their views, and to protect themselves against religious discrimination and hostility. I don't agree with everything that all atheist activists urge; for instance, I don't think that the Establishment Clause is properly interpreted as banning religious speech by the government. Nonetheless, there are indeed some egregious forms of discrimination against the irreligious (or the less religious), for instance in child custody cases — these should be assiduously fought.

Moreover, there seems to be a great deal of hostility to atheists among the public: A July 7, 2005 Pew Research Center poll, for instance, asked people about their views of various religious and political grounds, and whether "your overall opinion of [the group] is very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable?" For Catholics, the total unfavorable percentage was 14%; for Jews, 7%; for "Evangelical Christians," 19%; for "Muslim Americans," 25%; for "Atheists, that is, people who don't believe in God," it was 50%, including 28% "very unfavorable" (only 35% said they had either a "very favorable" or "mostly favorable" view of atheists). Such religious hostility, it seems to me, should also be fought (though of course through argument rather than litigation). Anti-atheist bias is no more justifiable than anti-Jewish bias.

I therefore have nothing at all against atheist political movements in general, nor do I have any reason to believe that atheists generally have any hostility towards Jews, or affection for David Duke. Yet this makes it all the more important, it seems to me, for atheists who are deciding whom to ally themselves with — or for that matter, for members of other groups, such as Scouting for All or any marijuana decriminalization groups — to know Mr. Darby's views that I describe above, views with which I hope most atheists much disagree. Likewise, Alabama Democrats should know who's running in their primary, and should keep in mind the views I note above, even if some of them are tempted to agree with him on marijuana decriminalization, juvenile justice, or even religion in public life. (I doubt there are that many Alabama Democrats who do agree with him on those latter issues, but I imagine there are some.)

And it's also important for Jews — even in America, the place in the world in which it is probably safest to be a Jew — to be reminded that these sorts of views do exist in America, and in what might to many seem like quite unlikely circles.

UPDATE: Corrected "Atheist Legal Center" to "Atheist Law Center"; sorry for the error.