Atheists to Tucson City Council, “Remove the ‘A’ Mountain Shrine.”by Don Lacey on Jun. 26, 2013, under Art & Culture, Atheism, AZ Politics, Christian Self-Righteous Arrogance, Christianity, Critical Thinking, Environment, Ethics, Freethought, Government, History, Logic, Reason, Religion, Responsible Government, Separation of Church & State, Supreme Court
A complaint has been lodged on the ‘A’ Mountain shrine. It is a religious display with no secular purpose on government land. It is unconstitutional and must be removed. The FFRF (Freedom from Religion Foundation) received the complaint from a Tucson citizen and sent a letter to the Tucson City Manager by fax and by U.S. Mail. The letter is clear, concise, and lays out in detail why the shrine must be removed. The letter also cites four individual federal court cases in which similar displays were deemed unconstitutional and forced to be removed. It serves no useful purpose to use city resources to defend a pile of religious icons. If requested, members of the Tucson freethinking community will gladly remove the debris for the city at no charge. There are a few members that regularly go on weekends to ‘A’ Mountain to clean up litter along the road already and removal of a few more bags of refuse would be no problem.
Disputes over religious displays on public property have been going on for quite a while and will continue. In this case, it is disingenuous to claim that the pile of religious knick knacks that exists there now has any connection to the original statue placed there by Pancho Murrietta back in 1993 other than its location which happens to be on city property. The original statue is gone. Perhaps the collection would be better served and better protected at one of the local churches.
Other shrines in Tucson haven’t received citizen complaints and some such as El Tiradito and the Garden of Gethsemane do have a historic and artistic value that allows them to serve as more than simply religious shrines. Religion and history are often entwined here in Tucson. We have iconic missions and other religious architecture and art. There is no denying that it is part of what it means to live in our Sonoran Desert. However, natural rock pit on the side of a road filled with recent worthless religious bric-a-brac does not qualify as historically significant. Its only purpose is religious and it doesn’t matter that the valueless idols were placed there by private individuals or that they don’t impact public safety. The paramount consideration is that by allowing a permanent religious shrine that serves no other secular purpose, Tucson is endorsing religion and violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Finally, Councilman Steve Kozachik needs to understand that a pile of statues, beads, pictures, and candles left in the desert isn’t simply respecting a group’s desire to express their faith as much as it is considered by some as LITTERING!