The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Oregon Bomb Investigation Centers on Controversial Veterans Memorial

By Bill Morlin on September 11, 2013 - 11:50 am, Posted in Anti-Christian, Extremist Crime
1972 Vietnam Memorial in Coos Bay, Ore.1972 Vietnam Memorial in Coos Bay, Ore photo courtesy of The World

Federal authorities are now involved in the investigation of a minor bombing and the threat of more violence in Coos Bay, Ore., where a Christian cross attached to a Vietnam War memorial is the focus of controversy.

A small improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated at the memorial on the evening of Aug. 22, several months after someone spray-painted a dotted line and the words “cut off here” at the base of the cross, The Oregonian reported. The 5 1/2-foot tall monument is in Mingus Park, erected in 1972 under the sponsorship of the Jaycees and Western Bank.

On Sept. 3, Coos Bay firefighters responding to a structure fire found a second, unexploded IED inside The Prayer Chapel, a Coos Bay church that has offered to move the memorial to its property, other media outlets reported.

Police sealed off a large area surrounding the church while bomb disposal experts took about an hour to disarm the device. Since then, the FBI has sent approximately a dozen agents to Coos Bay to assist in the investigation, according to media reports.

The controversy began last February when the Freedom From Religion organization and the American Civil Liberties Union, representing city residents, asked the city to remove the 41-year-old war memorial.

“We have no objection to veterans’ memorials,” Rebecca Markert, staff attorney for Freedom From Religion, told the city in a letter. “Our objection is to the message of endorsement of Christianity over other religions and over non religion. Additionally, the Christian-only memorial sends a message that the government only cares about the deaths of Christian soldiers, not Jewish, other non-Christian and nonreligious soldiers.

A letter from a group calling itself “Veterans United for Non-religious Memorials” was received Monday by Coos Bay city officials, claiming responsibility for the explosive devices, but its authenticity is in question, The World newspaper in Coos Bay reported.

“Apparently you are not receiving our message about the Mingus Park Veterans Memorial,” the letter said. “We gave you warnings with the minor explosive devices at the memorial and at the Bay Area House of Prayer.”

“From now forward, we hold each of you personally responsible for causing deeper grief and insult to the families and friends of non-Christian Veterans,” the letter said. It said if the city “does not now comply with prompt removal of the cross, we will take increased action against you, your staff, religious leaders and faith based structures.”

  • broken soldier

    I am a veteran and I can not believe another veteran would do this to a brother. what kind of cowards would resort to terrorism. I hope they get caught by the police…

  • Reynardine

    I see my flatiron attempt fell flat.

  • Reynardine

    Maybe a symbol of a little flatiron… , perhaps.

  • aadila

    (irony mark here)

  • aadila

    God is the ultimate extremist. Or not.

  • supersonic250

    Aron, the compliment came through. Thanks. :3

    As for this whole thing, I think the only solution is education, repudiation, and keeping vigilance. Educate the public on what it TRULY means to be a respectful, law-abiding atheist… Repudiate the actions of jerks who actively try to break others’ faith or bomb memorials… and keep an eye out for extremists within our own ranks and everywhere else.

  • aadila

    Aron, as you know, I find such behavior deplorable. However, know that I see your troubled, misguided goodness beneath this veil of mischief, and no matter how many garden gnomes you abscond with, I have confidence that it is through these actions you will come to realize the path to enlightenment has been beneath your feet the entire time.

  • Aron

    Rey, I had a compliment to Super rejected by the PtB. So something silly is afoot.

    And Aadila, as much as I love you, I must take issue with your callous insult to the good people who steal garden gnomes. If they didn’t exist, we wouldn’t have this comedy platinum: http://vimeo.com/m/71249467

  • Reynardine

    Given that many people here have made the same conjecture I did, and that more plainly, I wonder what there is about the historical reference to the operation at Gleiwitz that caused my own remark to be suppressed.

  • http://www.burnthebibleassociation.com Charles Dan Austin

    I read the letter and it doesn’t ring true to me. If these people were Atheists or non-religious they would say why is there no Star of David, Mennorrah,Islamic Crescents, Buddhist, Hindu or other symbols in the park? Of course Atheists use the atomic symbol for their own but don’t think its worthwhile to stop others from expressions of grief. We don’t want to be left out or overlooked. I’m sitting at home and enjoying reading the latest Intelligence Report. Thanks have a nice day.

  • NAFTA Refugee

    This will definitely get people riled up on both sides of the issue. Perhaps some of those hunting cameras need to be put in place. Maybe they already have.

  • Erika

    Aron, speaking of clumbsy attempts to convert people, i’ve actually had people from a Baptist Church leave Chick Tracts on my car when i was parked in a church parking lot because i was attending a church service.

    of course, as anyone who has seen some of the painfully unfunny Chick Tract parodies by Athests available on the internet knows there are some Athiests that can be just as humorless and heavy handed as the most humorless and heavy handed Christians. The really silly part is that apparently there are some Athiests who will actually leave Athiest versions of Chick Tracts promoting Atheism on people’s cars and homes and the like. Seriously, i just don’t understand why some Athiests have decided that imitating the tactics of the nuttiest Christians around is a good idea.

    so it quite possible that there are some humorless Athiest Extremists running around who did this. why should Athiesm be any different from any other religion in having nutcase adherrents.

  • Aron

    I just had three people attempt to convert me to Christianity on Facebook last night. It was UTTERLY hilarious.

  • http://www.stopthereligiousright.org jimnh

    Oh yeah. I never proselytise my atheism. All I say to people is that nobody knows and if they say they do they are delusional or lying. I must admit that when bible bangers come to my door they are usually eager to leave after 5 minutes. Hehe. As long as churchies mind their own business, they are just fine. But when churchies try to mess with my government then their religion becomes a legitimate target because they have made it political

  • http://www.stopthereligiousright.org jimnh

    I am an atheist but it has nothing to do with punishing God…..who doesn’t exist duh. My atheism came about only thru careful thinking. Some things just stink of irrationality. I reject every theistic religion I have ever encountered because I just see primitive and illogical ideas

  • Underwriter

    Doesn’t anyone besides me suspect right wing Christians of doing this to make atheists look bad? It seems to me that they stole my name (Christian), now they want to steal yours (atheist). And they seem to be the ones who have all the armaments. Or is this what Xavier and Gregory are hinting at?

  • Dietrich

    I’m betting on a false flag.

  • aadila

    I am an athiest and secular humanist, also a dialectical materialist — in other words I feel organized religion throughout time has been to some degree or another, a swindle.

    At the same time, religious expression and culture are intertwined, deeply personal, and ultimately worth of preservation in a free society as long as exploitation and denying others the right of personal conscience can be avoided.

    So when I see people reacting to religious symbols, as Dan Z. saliently points out — with “motivation”, i.e. religious or anti-religious animus — to me such actions are of the same category as trying to bomb the Easter Bunny, or absconding with people’s garden gnomes.

    Religious practitioners should have the strength of their ideals as to withstand the removal of symbols from the public sphere if the local community deems them a problem, just as athiests should withstand the presence of religious symbols in the public sphere if the local community wants them. In either case resorting to threats and violence is an inappropriate response, and I feel conflict over this matter is far more destructive than symbols (or the lack of them) being displayed in public.

    In this particular incident I think there remains much left to be revealed before conclusions as to motives and identies of culprits can be surmised. Never underestimate the capacity for simple human meaness and stupidity.

  • Jason B.

    This is disgusting. If this supposed terrorist group is real, I appeal to them as a fellow vet to stop what they are doing. As a Christian, I am saddened that people are responding to Christianity in such a way.

    As a man that meets at a house of worship, and a man that loves his family (both spiritual and biological), I welcome this group/individuals to respond to me and let me know that they are man enough to stand toe to toe with me to settle this like Americans, not terrorists.

  • Yodz

    I don’t know where I fit in the believe vs. non-belief spectrum, as I’m all over
    the place with it. Sometimes my belief is strong, sometimes I can’t believe someone would fall for that particular scam. So when I say that I don’t think the cross is legally permissible due to the First Amendment, I say so without agenda. Regardless, it appears to me that the terrorists are doing the exact opposite of what they should if they want their beliefs respected. Am I naive to think the Golden Rule is applicable?

  • concernedcitizen

    Well I can see how this would offend the families of non-Christian soldiers, but I agree that bombing is not the answer.

  • Robert Pinkerton

    I once knew a genuine atheist: He affirmatively disbelieved every attribute and characteristic of God (but he knew only that God of Jews and Christians). At the same time, he cursed God, with heart-rending bitterness, for not existing.

    I never figured that one out. My former (for I account the psychotic as equal to the dead) friend lapsed into full-blown babbling lunacy before he died, so I never got to ask him to explain.

  • Reynardine

    It’s despicable however motivated, and don’t rule out a “Canned Goods” operation.

  • Aron

    Super, I know you’re too good a person to belon to the two groups I describe. As a New Englander, religion is a very private issue for me: don’t push your faith on me; I won’t push my faith, or lack thereof on you.

    If you want to see exactly what I’m talking about, check out Talking Points Memo’s YT channel: while they post wonderful stuff, some of their commenters on the left are just as bad as those on the right.

  • Gregory

    I agree with Xavier. Something is a bit stinky with this story.

  • supersonic250

    Aron-

    Don’t count me as one of ‘em. I may not believe myself, but I find those who DO believe worthy of respect and admiration, since they can see things in the world that I can’t. Atheists who try to break the faith of those with religion… or do THIS kinda BS are horrible people.

    …Basically my opinion is don’t sell me your religion, I won’t sell you my atheism. Mutual respect. Too bad others don’t buy into this.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    “the more militant Antitheists I know.”

    Yes. There is a type of atheist that is not motivated by a belief that god does not exist, or that they simply lack belief in a god. This type seems to be personally angry at god and rejects him as a sort of punishment. I think you can see large numbers of this type in the comments sections of various news outlets.

    This bombing may be a person of this sort. Perhaps they have a grievance against both a christian church and the military. Or perhaps it is a false flag attack intended to discredit atheists.

    I feel certain that Veterans United for Non-religious Memorials is not a legitimate group of either activists or terrorists.

    DanZ

  • Aron

    Hell, these folks are EVANGELIZING atheism.

  • Aron

    Supersonic, sadly I wouldn’t put it past some of the more militant Antitheists I know. As irritating as the New Atheists are, the Antitheists are galling. They are just as bad as the militant evangelicals.

  • Xavier

    Something’s fishy around here, a vague group referring to what the ACLU and FFRF said as ‘their message’. Hmmm.

  • supersonic250

    ……Okay, speaking as an atheist, I denounce these people. There’s a difference between an atheist and a terrorist. I know it’s a “no true Scotsman fallacy” to say this… but no REAL atheist would do this kind of horrible thing or threaten others.

    The atheists I know respect religion even if we don’t believe in it. I find these actions deplorable. If you have a problem with religious symbols on a national monument, deal with it legally and non-violently. You’ll get more sympathy and get a lot farther in your cause.

    People like that give people like me a bad name… and it’s getting annoying.

  • Sam Molloy

    This should never have been put up in the first place, but bombing churches is not the answer. This is not the Mideast.