Early protesters pause for a photo, including American Atheists web columnist “Gentleman Jim Heldberg” (far right).
Most of the protesters came from the southern California region, including
members Stuart Beckman, Edith James and Al Griffin, to name just a few. A
small contingent including Jim Heldberg, Ski Grabowsky, and myself came down
from San Francisco. A number of the protesters were not affiliated with any
group, but had heard about the protest and wanted to show their support.
Surprisingly, no gay organizations joined in the protest. The one exception
was a very impressive high school senior from Los Alamitos named Fred Peters,
who had founded both an Atheist group and a gay organization in his high
Protesters at the entrance reported that the response they had received was
not positive. However, at the exit, where the main American Atheists
contingent was stationed, we received a mixed reaction, with an equal - if not
greater - number of people expressing their support. This included not only
some of the parents, but also a number of the scouts, including the Randall
twins. Why we received a different reaction is unclear. It may have been that
people felt scrutinized by scout leaders at the entrance, and were afraid to
voice their opinions.
While most of the demonstrators left around 1:00, Ski, Jim and I were so
pleased with the reaction we were receiving at the exit that we decided to
stay longer. We finally left the park slightly after 2:30 and headed home to
San Francisco, tired, but exhilarated by the experience.
In closing, I must say that I have been in many protests over the years, and
this event in Orange County was without question one of the best. Never before
have I seen an Atheist demonstration present such a positive image. We
presented ourselves as friendly, reasonable and sincere, worthy of respect and
acceptance. Instead of anger, we responded to the court decision with a
wonderful show of unity. This is just the beginning of a real atheist movement
© 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by American Atheists.