American Atheists in Maryland said Friday they want the state to start removing roadside memorials; crosses, flowers and sometimes teddy bears that people leave next to highways where a loved one or family member has died in an automobile accident. The practice is repeated all over the country.
While there are currently no petition drives or other widespread grassroots activities, Maryland atheists say they want state officials to be more proactive in the matter.
"Our position basically is that we're against it (the memorials)," David Condo, Maryland state director for American Atheists, told CNSNews.com. "We don't think it makes sense from a driver's safety perspective, for one. If you're looking at a memorial or any other thing that's been put on the road, then you're certainly not looking at the road. If it's religious in nature it could also be offensive to anyone who just wants to use the road. So it doesn't make sense from a couple of perspectives."
According to Condo, the basic Maryland State policy is to remove anything along the roadways, but he said state officials must be persuaded to enforce the policy.
There are two issues at play here. One is the safety of motorists using a public highway, the other is freedom of religion. The American Atheists may have a point on the first issue but on the second issue they're way off base.
Families have the right to put up memorials to loved ones including relgious or spritiual emblems. This type of symbolism is obviously protected under the 1st Amendment and is widely practiced in cemetaries and mortuaries across the nation. If a state's highway department or department of transportation does not deem such memroials along highways to be too much of a distraction then the families should be allowed to express their grief in a tasteful manner. For the American Atheists to try and stop them from making a religous statement is hypocritical. Keep in mind, however, that the Atheists are simply requesting that an existing law be enforced. The state will more than likely have to honor their request unless the law is struck down or modified.
These atheists need to remember that the law that allows religious expression is also the law that allows them to be atheists in the first place. This type of non-tolerance is what gives non-Christians a bad name.
Also posted on Say Anything.