Darby is the ALC's cofounder and former president; he's now running for Alabama Attorney General. Last month, I noted on this blog that Darby had complained about America's "Zionist-Occupied Government," helped organize a talk by denier David Irving, and seemed oddly interested in whether his questioner on this (me) was Jewish. Here's a message from Carol Moore, the Center's new president, which was sent in response to my blog post (which I had cross-posted to a discussion list):
[Quoting me:] "On the other hand, his having been involved in the group, and the Center's having hosted David Irving while Mr. Darby was president, makes me concerned about the group more broadly. 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. 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."
[Moore:] I simply do not understand "concerns" about the ALC simply because of Larry Darby and David Irving. It is important that citizens participate in the public debate, but it is even more important that ALL citizens receive as much information as possible so they can make up their own minds. Both Darby and Irving provided such information from different perspectives. Listening to all sides of issues does not mean that atheists "ally" themselves with those who disseminate such information. It means we embrace free inquiry and discussion first, and then chose our own level of acceptance of that information. For the record, Irving's presentation in Alabama last summer was a discussion of the English legal system as it related to his case. Would you have us ignore this first hand account simply because of other's opinions? It that were true, how on earth would anyone get through law school?
[Quoting me:] "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.)"
[Moore:] Yes, there are enough Alabama citizens who agree with Darby's views to make Darby a viable candidate for AG. We "know" about Darby...he's been a reputable, consistent representative of our frustration with our current state government. We are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents. We can see through the smoke screen of the current status quo, listen to all sides of the issues, and make up our own minds. Doubts do not deter us — they challenge us.
[Quoting me:] "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."
[Moore:] This comment perpetuates the myth that Atheists are the enemy. America doesn't promise safety, equality, or fairness. America doesn't promise that you won't be personally demonized for your opinions — as some on this service seem to relish. America does, however, promise via the First Amendment the opportunity and the potential for a rational life, by stating explicity that the Government will stay out of religion. There is no quote on the Statue of Liberty that says "I lift up my lamp for the religious only." America promises a forum for all ideas, even those we may personally abhor. We are all enriched and enlightened by the forum and the participants.
I think this should give people a pretty good sense of where the Atheist Law Center stands on Larry Darby and his views.
As I said in my original post, "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 . . . 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. . . ."
So, no, I don't think that atheists are the enemy of Jews (whether ethnic Jews, against whom atheists need have no animosity, or religious Jews, with whom atheists may simply have a disagreement). But it certainly seems to me that Jews, both ethnic and religious, should be pretty troubled by the Atheist Law Center.
UPDATE: Whoops -- originally wrote Larry Irving instead of David Irving (and not for the first time, sad to say). Larry Darby + David Irving somehow end up melding in my mind into Larry Irving, who as best I can tell is a perfectly fine fellow; my apologies to him. Thanks to commenter MM for the correction.
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