Picking and choosing the right fight - Uproar Over "7 in Heaven Way"

Many have heard about the new street name honoring firefighters lost on 9/11 named "Seven In Heaven Way". The atheist community has come out denouncing this sign, saying it violates separation of church and state because essentially the city is recognizing the existence of heaven which is a Christian creation.


9/11 is an incredibly touchy subject and tensions on all sides when it comes to this day are understandably razor thin to begin with.


So my question is this; Is this a good fight for the atheist community? Is this a good stand to take? Should we be more concerned with laws that affect our day to day lives or changes in texts books and the like?  When we are trying to make our movement heard, trying to show the public we are a people of reason, is this the type of press we want? Is this a fight worth fighting or is it only adding to the negative stereotypes already out there that atheists can be just as fanaticle as the faithful?


The full article from the Washington Post is as follows:

Heaven ignites atheist uproar
By Jordan Sekulow

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) carries a wreath with New York Police Department officer Stephanie Moses (4th L), New York FIre Department firefighter Joseph Lapointe (5th R) and Port Authority Police Department officer John Adorno (4th R) during a wreath laying ceremony at Ground Zero on May 5, 2011 in New York City. (Mario Tama - GETTY IMAGES)

New York City has chosen to honor the memory of seven fallen heroes – firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11 – by naming the street that their fire station is on “Seven in Heaven Way.” Should this be a constitutional crisis?

As this street sign honoring the fire fighters’ sacrifice made its way through the approval process, no one complained. But now, after the sign’s unveiling, a group called New York City Atheists has threatened to file a lawsuit if it is not removed.

The group’s president declared, “We’ve concluded as atheists there is no heaven.” Another atheist leader added, incorrectly, that, “Heaven is a specifically Christian place.”

Because he has “concluded” that there is no heaven, the rest of us cannot recognize the ultimate sacrifice these brave first responders gave for our liberty with an honorary street sign that mentions the word “heaven” without handling a lawsuit?

Thankfully, the atheists have little chance of succeeding in court. As the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently stated, reaffirming Supreme Court precedent, mere “hurt feelings” do not give one standing to sue. America is replete with religious references in the naming of our cities, parks, and streets.

The president of American Atheists, David Silverman, chimed in by repeating the same tired arguments against the mention of anything with religious meaning by the government. Silverman said, “The attacks on 9/11 were an attack on America. They were an attack on our Constitution and breaking that Constitution to honor these firefighters is the wrong thing to do.” I challenge Silverman to cite any Supreme Court precedent to backup his claim that using “heaven” on a city sign violates our Constitution.

In America, heaven has come to symbolize the memory of those we love, our family members, and those who have made great sacrifices. Memorializing these heroic individuals in this way is not an act of religious divisiveness, but patriotic honor.

Publically attacking this tribute to seven American heroes, only to make a point that you do not believe in heaven, is insulting and outrageous.

By Jordan Sekulow  |  10:45 AM ET, 06/23/2011

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I'm all for the fight.  If the firefighters truly believed in sacrificing themselves for the country they live in , we would rightfully be honoring them by fighting this battle , which is obviously breaking the constitution.  


But , I suppose if there was unequivocal proof all seven of the firefighters accepted Jesus Christ into the hearts and repented for their sins sometime soon before they died , then I would be happy to have the road named as such.  


But we all know Christians like to lie for JC.   

It's petty. It does make us look bad. But I make us look bad, too, so whatyagonnado? Free country is free.
It is best for democracy to completely omit religion.  However, there comes a point where atheists seem to cut off their nose to spite their face.

Being in a minority, we need to advance our cause intelligently.  It's the goal, more than individual points, that matter the most.  If, by pursuing a nit-picking course, we derail our progress, then that doesn't make much sense to me.

On the other hand, freedoms get eroded by precisely this kind of "little" compromise.  The Supreme Court has already (in a 5 to 4 vote decision) ruled that school vouchers for religious institutions is constitutionally legal.  It might not seem that major a problem but when you combine it with other compromises, like the religious word, "heaven", on public street signs, the separation of church and state is definitely being weakened.  And when are we going to get God off our money?

It's a tough call.  If our long-term goal is threatened by ongoing compromises, then perhaps it is better to protest even minor violations.  I really wouldn't want to be responsible for deciding which course to take on this one.

Put me in the camp that thinks this is not the fight to enter.  Great positions offered by most but my instincts tell me don't rock this particular boat. It is far too emotional an issue for those involved.  Confronting with the intention of disrupting an organized event is not what atheists should be doing behind enemy lines.  More importantly, it does not project a fair, impartial, unemotional, independent thinking culture.

Better to show up and say that the atheist community is in solidarity and grieves with the victim's families and that it is intolerance and religious extremism that caused the tragedy and that we should all have the freedom to express that grief in whatever way we choose in a world where we can believe what we want. 

Thanks but you are probably according me more credit than I deserve.  I too am tired of the mindless incantations from our religious friends.  But I have to admit that I can't change any closed minds and perhaps, for them, belief in nice stories gets them through the day.  So we have the dilemma;  letting them have their stories but not allowing them to cram them down our throats because they have a majority in this country.  I guess from looking at this site, I'm not the only one wrestling with this.
This is not the right fight to pick. I do not believe that we need to start censoring road names. I consider the road name "Seven in Heaven Way" to be nothing more that a foolish romantic name, so be it - the world is full of crazy road names.
I feel like this is only an issue if one of the firefighters was an Atheist.
I tend to agree.  It's a silly issue to take on.

If the fallen firefighters and their families believe(d) in the fairy tales, who the hell are we to say the street can't be named that? Honestly, it's not "God's Merciful Judgement on the Fallen Heroes Except Those That Were Atheist Way". Let's pick our battles more carefully.

Maybe one of the cross streets could be names "Allah Alley", just to be balanced.
Or even a 'SecularStreet' would be nice
You know the answer to that is we have lots of secular streets... all the ones with numbers and letters are secular.


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