It has been close to three years now since a town of angry theocrats learned the hard way that our system of government forbids the mixing of church and state. And as I discovered in my follow up, make no mistake, they’re still very pissed off about it.
To recap the story of what happened.
1. Beginning in 2010 the FFRF began sending letters to the Mayor of Whiteville, TN informing him that the large Latin cross the city had paid to mount on the town water tower was a an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.
2. After the letters were ignored, the FFRF filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a local resident to force James Bellar, the town’s mayor, to remove the religious symbol the town’s water tower; as well as smaller wooden crosses that had been erected in front of Whiteville City Hall on the city-owned sidewalk by that time.
3. Bellar announced on Oct. 3, 2011 that he would move the cross, and angrily referred to the FFRF and its members as “terrorists” in local media reports.
4. On Oct. 17, 2011 Bellar told reporter Daniel Wilkerson, WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tenn., that “Somebody has to stand up to these atheist sons of bitches, and you can quote me on that.”
5. In late October, Bellar wasted another $4,000 in taxpayer money to inexplicably break one arm off the cross and using town funds to illuminate what remained of the cross.
6. On Aug. 8, 2012, Judge Daniel Breen approved a settlement and entered an agreed judgment. The Town and Mayor were enjoined from installing future crosses on city hall property. The defendants also agreed not to replace the arm on the remaining structure on the water tower. Lastly, Bellar agreed to pay $20,000 in attorney’s fees, a waste of money that could have been avoided were it not for his religious fanaticism.
While that was ongoing, an all out witch-hunt was undertaken to ferret out the heretic(s) who dared challenge the Mayor’s decision. Those involved in the witch-hunt apparently included members of the Whiteville Police Department. Internet message boards and blogs were scoured daily for discussions or articles unfavorable toward the Mayor’s actions and then spammed in an attempt to shut down dissenting commenters. Their preferred tactic was to spam the names of people on a short list of ‘suspects’ they had collected.
This tactic gloriously backfired on them after they came upon an article by a blogger at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen. The author of the piece was an Attorney from southern California and his article was critical of the Mayor’s defiance and his accusations of “terrorism” on the part of the FFRF and secularist. The group, variously labeling themselves “lawman1”, “lawman2” or “the gang of six” (which was approximately the number of cops employed by the city) began spamming names and threatening anonymous commenters who were complaining about wooden crosses were being built and handed out with the expectation that all residents stake them in their yard. Anyone who refused was labeled suspect and subject to police harassment and social ridicule.
Their goof was due to an ignorance of technology and deciding to harass people in a moderated forum, leading to the “gang of six” getting a taste of their own medicine. You see, unlike Topix, the author of the article was also the blog’s administrator. The ‘gang of six’ had unknowing let their IP address be logged when they commented. A simple reverse look-up revealed a woman’s name and approximate location. The blog’s author, justifiably perturbed by the blatant harassment, posted the name and corresponding address linked to the IP address. And then the puzzle pieces began coming together.
For months “the gang of six” had been blindly accusing random people, who they laughably labeled ‘suspects’, of being atheists and ‘terrorist’ based on nothing more than their unwillingness to get involved and pick a side. If you weren’t with the party of god, as evidenced by your willingness to stake a wooden cross in your yard and publicly support the Mayor in his righteous fight, you were labeled an evil atheist in league with Satan; so went their reasoning. But now the ‘gang’ was faced with having someone they respected named and they were not pleased. The woman’s name was re-posted to the forums on Topix where “the gang of six” had been freely harassing and attempting to dox people without fear of moderation.
An individual soon posted a demand on the blog article that the woman’s name be removed from the blogs comments as well as Topix, asserting she was not involved because he was “the one that pays the bills”. That statement was the key to unlocking the identity of “the gang of six” or at least its leader. As it turned out, the woman (likely not involved) was an employee of Bass Insurance in Whiteville, TN; her name just happened to be the name on file with the ISP. The question was, if the harassing comments and doxing were coming from Bass Insurance then who is the person that “pays the bills”? Well that would be the owner of Bass Insurance, the right honorable Mayor of Whiteville himself, James Bellar. Once this link was revealed in the blog comments and Topix forums the harassment, online at least, quickly died out. Although there were further comments, they were posted through European proxies.
I decided to check in on the old Topix forums recently to see how the gang was doing. It didn’t take much to stir them up and what I found was a cult like mentality of pretending their religious symbol is still there. They write as if the lawsuit and the settlement either never occurred or had no effect. They still cling to the false notion that the lawsuit was motivated by a hatred of crosses and Jesus, refusing to acknowledge any sort of church state issue. A user calling himself ‘lawman 2’ wrote“…that cross [has] burned into you memories you will take to your grave and it has taken over your life.” Further threatening “It is you that should be worried about our ticket book.” , supporting past complaints by locals that being on the wrong side of local politics can make you a target.
When I raised the point that their veneration of a broken religious icon is essentially idolatry they have no answer. Apparently they’re to busy basking in their own imagined victim-hood to take the time required to understand the actual teachings of their own religion.