<National Report>Washington, DC–After several weeks of preliminary preparation, the Smithsonian Institution has decided to scrap a series of exhibits that would have shown the history and culture of Atheism in the United States, after a number of organizations lashed out against their plans… and a few had even vowed violent retribution.
In February, the Smithsonian began preparing a series of exhibits that focused on “America’s separation of church and state and our freedom to believe in anything or nothing.” They would contain famous and not-so-famous documents, photographs, and dioramas depicting key figures in American history as they struggled to secure America’s freedom of, and from, religion.
The exhibits were named “Atheism America,” after a little-known poem written by one of America’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, in which he posited his belief that one day, atheism would be a “majority philosophy” in the United States, as more Americans “cast aside the dogmas and shackles of un-tempered ideology in favor of the achievements of science and reasoning.” Jefferson was to be prominently featured in a number of exhibits, showcasing his vast collection of holy texts, his letters and journals discussing “the merits of atheism,” and his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists in which he coined the phrase “separation of Church and State,” in reference to the first amendment.
But in March, a Washington DC pastor learned about the exhibits from a Smithsonian employee in his congregation, and launched a campaign to stop the Smithsonian from showcasing “Atheism America.” By mid-April, as many as thirty religious groups and eighteen politicians had rallied against the Smithsonian’s plans. Smithsonian curators decided to pull the plug on Thursday, May 1st, after some museum staff started to receive death threats during the previous two weeks.
“America isn’t ready for exhibits like these, it would seem,” said Smithsonian Director Mark C. Fredericks, in a press release announcing the cancelation of the series. “It wasn’t our intention to offend people, but to educate them. To promote the merits of a free society where all citizens are free to believe what they want to believe, or to believe nothing at all, and are granted the unhindered opportunity to express those beliefs however they see fit. But sadly, not everyone agrees with this fundamental right.”
Kansas State legislator Tom Edison (R), who made headlines last month after pushing a State bill that would have banned the Fox television show “Cosmos” from airing in Kansas, was organizing a protest rally against the Smithsonian, to take place on the exhibit’s opening day in July. Edison announced on his Facebook page this morning that due to the Smithsonian’s decision to pull the exhibits, his events were “suspended until further notice.”
“Liberals want us to believe that America is a secular nation, but it isn’t. This is a Christian nation, and there [isn't] any denying that,” Edison claimed during an interview recently on an AM radio program in his home state. “Christians are persecuted every single day in this country, every time one of these atheists start flapping their gums. We can’t worship in peace without some liberal atheist voicing their opinions, telling us we’re wrong. That’s oppressive. And we aren’t going to let the Smithsonian celebrate that oppression with a museum exhibition. No way.”
Edison was asked if he felt the anonymous death threats sent to museum staff were going too far. “No, I don’t think so. Not really. Jesus kicked over the tables of the moneychangers. His message there was that violence isn’t always the answer, but sometimes it’s necessary. I’m not saying these museum people should be killed or harmed, I’m not saying that, but it just shows you how offended some people are. And you have to ask, `what would Jesus do?’ And I think the answer is clear. He’d kick over the tables of the moneychangers. That’s what you have to do sometimes to get the point across.”