California Promise Keepers Demonstration
October 10, 2020
by Dave Kong
California State Director, American Atheists
On October 10, twenty enthusiastic American Atheists and others from
throughout California converged on Sacramento’s Arco Arena to protest the
agenda of the Promise Keepers, a religious cult with political aspirations.
Holding the line for state/church separation, Atheists greeted arriving
Promise Keepers with slogans such as “keep America secular and free,” “no
medieval government,” and “PKs: keep your promise to yourself!”
The fun began Friday, with some protesters meeting to spend the night at the
Canterbury Inn. An impromptu party at the hot tub was formed, until motel
security received complaints about the revelry. The next morning, all
protesters met at a nearby Starbuck’s at 7:00 a.m., where they were shuttled
to the Arco Arena site.
There was a noticeable police presence at the arena. While they had been
informed in advance about the demonstration, it was clear that they did not
appreciate our presence. They immediately told protesters to stay off the
street, and under no circumstances could anyone park in the arena area.
Throughout the protest, the police kept a watchful eye. At one point, Atheist
Mike Crutchfield had crossed the invisible line between public and private
sidewalk, and was given a stern warning. Later, Ray Romano, having stopped
momentarily in his vehicle to speak to fellow protesters, was pulled over and
warned not to block traffic, even though there were no other cars in the area.
|... they would sometimes assume they were being welcomed. They would smile and wave, until they could actually read the signs - then their faces would fall.|
Protesters fanned out and covered both main entrances as well as the
intersection of the nearest thoroughfare in order to catch the attention of
everyone driving by. There were a number of positive responses from the
general public, but the most interesting reactions came from the Promise
Keepers. Seeing the signs in the distance, they would sometimes assume they
were being welcomed. They would smile and wave, until they could actually read
the signs - then their faces would fall.
As usual, some PKs engaged the protesters in conversation. One female Atheist
was even allowed into the arena, and was given free literature and a T-shirt.
The younger PKs were especially curious. Upon hearing that American Atheists
objected to the PK’s political goals, one young man claimed that they were not
political. His companion immediately corrected him - “yes, they are.”
At 11:30, the entire group met at the main entrance to pose for group photos.
A nearby Promise Keeper rudely attempted to get into the pictures, but when
there were strenuous objections, he stepped aside.
Afterwards, participants met at the nearby Roundtable Pizza on Truxel Road,
where the staff treated the group with exceptional courtesy and hospitality.
Stories were shared, contacts were made, and all jubilantly toasted the recent
defeat of California’s Religious Freedom Protection Act. Donations were given
to support American Atheists’ lawsuit against San Francisco’s sale of the Mt.
Davidson cross. Ray Romano delighted the group with an Al Pacino monologue
from “The Devil’s Advocate,” and high school student Fred Peters told the
group about his brave refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, in spite
of a physical threat from a teacher.
All agreed that the event was a success and lots of fun. More demonstrations
are being considered, including against the City of San Jose’s display of a
nativity scene in a public plaza in December, and the City of Redding’s annual
observance of the National Day of Prayer next May.
American Atheists thanks everyone who demonstrated, especially those who
assisted in the event. Thank you to members Ray Romano, Jim Heldberg, Ed
Coleman and Kay Dickey for providing transportation. Thanks to Sacramento
Atheist Dave Flanders, who acted as the local contact. American Atheists would
also like to thank Shasta Atheists and Freethinkers for their large
contingent, as well as Atheists of the San Francisco Region and Atheists
United, Los Angeles for sending official representatives. We look forward to
cooperating with these groups on more events and issues in the future.
© 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by American Atheists.