Have you ever voted for an atheist? Who knows? As far as anyone can tell, there are no federally elected or prominent state elected officials who openly claim to be atheist or agnostic or secular humanist.
So, all things being equal, one would think it would be excellent to see an unashamed atheist win up to 44% or more of the vote in an important state-wide election – in Alabama no less!
But it’s not excellent! All things are not equal.
Larry Darby, whom I’ve met at various atheist functions, is the (very) former Alabama state director of American Atheists and then headed the Atheist Law Center. He was a part of the fight against Judge Roy Moore over the Ten Commandment display in the Alabama Courthouse. So far, so good.
The problem is that over the years, Mr. Darby began to display some political and social opinions that placed him decidedly outside of the mainstream of secularist thought. Although many secularists are critics of many facets of Israel’s policies, Mr. Darby seemed to find many seemingly tangential opportunities to single out Israel and Judaism in his daily briefings of events relevant to atheists from the Atheist Law Center. He also had problems with the Southern Poverty Law Center and Morris Dees in particular, though you could not quite figure out what the problem was.
Mr. Darby also began to vociferously oppose all hate crime laws, which is a legitimate position since a crime is a crime and such laws can be used (and have been) against persecuted minorities as well. But his opposition seemed to be based on more than simple concern for persecuted minorities.
Then it all became clear with the following press release (with our added emphases) from the Atheist Law Center:
4 July 2005 – For immediate distribution
Atheist Law Center to host British historian David Irving on Wednesday, July 6 at 6:30 PM
For more information contact Larry Darby at xxx-xxx-xxxx.
British historian David Irving, an expert on World War Two, the NAZI era and erosion of rights of a Free Press and Free Speech will speak at the Prattville Holiday Inn… Call Larry Darby before 2:00 PM on Wednesday so that we may reserve a seat for you.
Irving’s topic will be, “The Lipstadt Trial Five Years On: Its Methods and Achievements.” This is the breathtaking inside story of Irving’s British High Court action against an Atlanta professor, Deborah Lipstadt for libel in England, and how she fought back with money poured in by the usual enemies of Free Speech. Lipstadt spent 13 million dollars, paying allegedly neutral witnesses up to half a million dollars each.
Irving, who exposed the fake “Hitler Diaries” (Ed.s note: and later briefly endorsed them) in 1983, will also speak on “The Faking of Adolf Hitler for History,” a look at the numerous documents that have been faked to help provide history’s present view of him.
Darby, president of the Center, urges citizens concerned about the steady erosion of liberties in the U.S. to come hear of Irving’s experiences in challenging popular history of the NAZI era and the Western world’s taboos regarding what has grown into the holocaust industry.
Media for the masses in the U.S. are self-censoring, by and large unwilling to report criticism of Judaism (the root of all theism), organized Jewry, Israel or U.S. foreign policy regarding the Jewish state. A result of this censorship of genuine issues has been the establishment in the U.S. of a void of knowledge concerning just how powerful Jewish interests, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, are in this country.
When individuals do find the courage to challenge politically correct notions involving Judaism, they are often met with knee-jerk responses of name-calling, such as “anti-Jew” or “anti-Semitic” or, in the case of Irving, “holocaust denier.” Such vicious personal attacks have an effect of quashing free expression of opinion and free inquiry into a religion or faith-based practices, even when such practices have a bearing on U.S. national security…
(End of quotes from press release.)
Nowhere did the press release mention that free speech “champion” David Irving had sued Ms. Lipstadt in order to stifle her free speech in criticizing him, and that the court in England found Mr. Irving to be a liar, poor historian and instead, found for Ms. Lipstadt.
Knowing this, I wrote to Mr. Darby via email on 7/5/05 after receiving the above press release:
I just want to understand some things:
Irving sued Lipstadt for libel in England which has easier libel laws than the US, which would have put a damper on her free speech in that country. Is that correct? How would Lipstadt have curbed Irving's rights of free speech?
And who are the "usual enemies" of free speech? From Gerry Dantone
The following exchange via email ensued:
Darby: Hi Gerry, Thanks for writing! No, that is not correct. Libel is not free speech.
Dantone: But the defendant was found to not be libeling Mr. Irving. Quite often in this country, and even more in England where it is easier, the threat of a libel lawsuit is used to dampen freedom of expression. You're saying that this is not what happened here?
Darby: The usual enemies include theists and atheists or anyone who might try and quash free inquiry or free expression.
Dantone: So you're saying the usual enemies could be anyone. How unusual to use that phrasing when you did not mean to more specific.
Darby: You are not a subscriber to the Atheist Daily News or the ALC’s Atheist Daily Briefing, so you might not be up to speed on these issues. I’ll send you a complimentary copy of today’s issue of the News which addresses some of the uninformed comments I received.
This informative exchange is revealing. His initial response set the tone: In my question about whether Irving was limiting the free speech of Ms. Lipstadt, he dishonestly depicted Ms. Lipstadt’s speech as “libel” which it wasn’t – it was criticism. Knowing the facts, I did not let this go. And so on.
Soon after this episode, Mr. Darby announced that he would leave the Atheist Law Center and run for Alabama State Attorney General as a Democrat. The primary was June 6,2006. Along the way, he made his views better known.
See following entry.