CNN's Belief Blog might seem more like the Unbelief Blog at times. CNN's Katie Glaeser not only publicized, but seemed to take sides with American Atheists and their campaign to fly their Godless message on airplane banners on the Fourth of July. "It's a battle of belief -- and the right not to believe -- in a country founded on freedom," she began. That's a bit of a straw man -- even President Bush repeatedly talked of the right to faith -- and no faith at all. But the latest stunt from these beleaguered anti-evangelists can get a boost from CNN:
Planes with banners that read "God-LESS America" or "Atheism is Patriotic" will be flying over 27 states on Monday. While people might be leery to see the messages overhead, the $23,000 campaign has had a struggle with those who are supposed to bring it to life.
Justin Jaye of Fly Signs Aerial Advertising, who is orchestrating the flights for American Atheists, said out of the 85 people in the country who fly these sign-pulling planes only about 17 have agreed to fly the messages.
"I've been in this business for 20 years and I've never run into so much resistance on people flying," Jaye said. "I've had pilots who are actual atheists who said, 'Justin, I am an atheist and I won't fly it because I can't wear a bulletproof vest.'"
Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, says the reaction to the organization's campaign before it takes off shows how much work the group still needs to do. "This is a clear reminder of why we need to keep fighting because the bigotry against us is so thick that a lot of the pilots are afraid to fly our banners," he said.
Jaye said while some feared for their lives, others feared for their marriages. He had one pilot say his wife would divorce him if he made the flight.
Red Calvert, a pilot and president of Pro-Air Enterprises in Indianapolis, said his reasons to decline the flight were based on his personal beliefs.
"I respect our country and I respect our churches and we've got enough problems in our country without stirring up some more," he said. "If those people want to do something they believe in, fine, just don't include me."
The American Atheists hope to draw attention and spur public discussion through their campaign on Monday.
"It's going to remind people that atheism is at that ballgame and at that beach and at that parade. We are patriotic people," Silverman said.
Atheists can certainly be patriotic. But it gets messy when they refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance or spurn that "endowed by our Creator" business in our founding documents. Freedom is conveyed by the pilots who refuse to fly this message as well as the people who are paying to fly it.