“The people have won. The atheists have lost! The people have won. The atheists have lost,” crowed John DePetro as he began broadcasting last Tuesday, May 6th, about the Supreme Court decision Greece v. Galloway that ruled that the “practice of beginning legislative sessions with prayers does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
Was DePetro’s contention that the Supreme Court decision was a victory of “people” over atheists (not “people”) a fair or complete assessment? Given DePetro’s penchant for playing rather loosely with reality, you probably know the answer. But there was an odious undercurrent to DePetro’s celebratory monologuing that morning, a strain of something far darker and more historically dangerous. As DePetro celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision as a victory for Christianity over atheism, he was also celebrating a victory of Christianity over Judaism.
Susan Galloway, who is named in the case, is Jewish, not an atheist. Linda Stephens, her co-plaintiff, is an atheist. The pair were represented not by the ACLU, but by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, among other Jewish organizations, filed amicus briefs. If the decision can be celebrated as a victory of “the people” over atheists, it can equally be celebrated as a victory of “the people” over Jews. Moreover, the Supreme Court split along religious lines, as all “five justices in the majority were Catholics, and three out of the four dissenters were Jewish.”
Imagine if DePetro had declared this ruling as a victory of Catholics over Jews. We would have immediately recognized such speech as hateful bigotry. Why is it different when he goes after atheists?
Cranston City Councillor Michael Farina spoke* to Gene Valicenti that morning, and DePetro used the clip endlessly on his show. Farina said, “We don’t typically try to push religion on anybody in the city. That doesn’t mean we can’t. This ruling, I think, will give us the ability, if we wanted to say a brief prayer, we could.”
Which prompted DePetro to say, “You would think that this idiot in Cranston would implement [prayer] right away, instead of cowering like the cowards they are, to the ACLU and the atheists” and “Cranston is the worst. First they fold to the ACLU and the atheists with the banner, and now they’re ‘Oh, we’re not pushing religion.’ No one is pushing religion.”
Try this experiment. Replace the word ‘atheists’ with ‘Jews.’ After all, a Jewish woman was at least 50% responsible for bringing this case, and many Jewish groups were involved.
“Cranston is the worst. First they fold to the ACLU and the Jews with the banner, and now they’re ‘Oh, we’re not pushing religion.’ No one is pushing religion.”
“You would think that this idiot in Cranston would implement it right away, instead of cowering like the cowards they are, to the ACLU and the Jews.”
Using the Greece v. Galloway decision as an opportunity to attack atheists reveals Depetro’s ugly bigotry. By neglecting the facts of the case, and pretending the case was brought entirely by atheists, DePetro omitted the fact that many religious minorities and including Jewish Americans, are equally marginalized by such prayers.
Ignoring the opinions and even the very existence of Jewish Americans involved in this court decision is tacit, if not overt antisemitism. I would be interested in hearing DePetro explain exactly how atheists are “mean spirited individuals” for bringing this lawsuit but Jews are not. I’d be interested in hearing John DePetro explain the opening words of his broadcast, “The people have won. The atheists have lost! The people have won. The atheists have lost!” in such a way as to dismiss the humanity of the atheist woman who brought the suit but not the humanity of the Jewish woman involved.
Atheists according to DePetro, are not people. Following DePetro’s logic, neither are Jews, or any other religious minority, for that matter. After a while, one wonders if there is any group, aside from rich, white, non-union Catholic males, that DePetro considers worthy of consideration and humanity.
John DePetro is contemptible.
You can listen to the entirety of his comments on Greece v. Galloway below.