Prison officer incites murder of an atheist

Prison officer incites murder of an atheist

Bennie O Ashby works as a correctional officer ion Alabama – and he said in a Facebook post that Amanda Scott, a member of the Mobile Atheist Community, should be ‘shot for treason’ because she voiced opposition to a religious plaque.

According to Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog, a couple of weeks ago, several non-Christians spoke to the Mobile County Commission (in Alabama) because the elected officials had voted to put a plaque reading “In God We Trust” in the city’s Administration Building. Despite the opposition, the Commission decided to move forward with the display.

A local news station WKRG then posed a question to its Facebook fans — not about the legitimacy of the display, but about their opinions of Scott:

What are your thoughts on a local woman who wants to see an Athiest (sic)  motto placed next to the words ‘In God We Trust’ at Government Plaza?

Said Mehta:

It was a horrible question, and the response was exactly what you think it’d be: A lot of awful comments directed at her … and no shortage of threats.

In fact, one of the threats (since deleted) outright called for Amanda’s murder


Mehta recognised the image of the left as being the badge of the Alabama Department of Corrections, where Ashby, who called for Amanda to be shot, works as a correctional officer.

Mehta said:

Let me repeat that: A government worker, whose job involves providing security for people in prison, called for an atheist to be killed because she opposed an ‘In God We Trust’ display.

Ashby may have made the threat on his private time, but the connection to his job is very public. With the badge as his icon, it’s entirely reasonable to think he was commenting as a government worker. I’m appalled the Department of Corrections would allow this type of individual on their staff. Would they seriously defend him by saying, “He didn’t do it while on duty, so we don’t care”?

I sent them an email last Wednesday explaining the whole story and requesting a response. It’s been nearly a week and I haven’t heard back. I also sent a message to Ashby himself last night asking if he had anything to say about his threat … he hasn’t written back either. That’s why I’m posting this now.

This is what some atheists have to deal with in the US. It wasn’t Amanda’s only threat, but it came from someone in a position of authority, whose salary is paid for by taxpayers. It’s just unbelievable.

And to be clear, I am *not* suggesting anyone make nasty comments of any sort against Mr. Ashby. Don’t do it. Don’t contact him at all. It’ll only make the situation worse. Just use this as evidence that anti-atheist bigotry is still very apparent in parts of our country.

On a brighter note, Amanda is handling all of this with professionalism and bravery. She told Mehta via email that Ashby’s comment:

Sends the message that atheists in Alabama, like myself, cannot expect to receive fair treatment by state correctional officers.

Last week, the Secular Student Alliance also gave her an Award for Outstanding Activism, adding:

Amanda, please know that you have the full support of the Secular Student Alliance. We know that an award from us doesn’t make up for the [harassment], but we hope it can serve as a reminder that you are doing fantastic work, and we are proud to have you as a part of the secular student movement.
We’re all proud.

13 responses to “Prison officer incites murder of an atheist”

  1. Trevor Blake says:

    My thoughts on Mr.Ashby on the occasion of his announcing on a global stage that he wishes a woman to be shot for her beliefs is that he will feel ashamed and from now on be both more discreet and more compassionate.

    Then again I’m an atheist and therefore have no moral compass. I can’t tell right from wrong. For all I know murder is the highest good and a mild online scolding such as I have given here is a wicked sin. Only theists like Mr. Ashby have the answers.

  2. Paul Cook says:

    It would be interesting to learn if the officer’s comments were made because he was religious.

    Is he anything more than the former president G Bush senile, who said atheist are not patriots or citizens? I do wonder if he would have gone further and asked for their arrest and incarceration.

  3. barriejohn says:

    There is controversy over the fact that All-American Patriots the Westboro Baptist Church plan to picket Robin Williams’s funeral. Let’s hope the idiots do – after all, they’re only upholding Biblical principles!

  4. Jobrag says:

    “In God we trust”, fair enough but which one of the many that various people believe in?

  5. Jobrag says:

    “In God we trust”, fair enough but which one of the many that various people believe in?

  6. Broga says:

    This puts in perspective the complaints about “militant atheists.” Our problem is we are so tolerant, ready to discuss and rely of facts that against these Christians we have one hand tied behind our backs. Any polemic we offer is mild compared to the threats of death from the Christians .

  7. AgentCormac says:

    Amanda Scott – putting the reason in treason.

  8. The Woggler says:

    The Westboro Baptists are going to boycott Robin Williams’ funeral because he once played a gay man in a film. But Robin was a married three times and had a few kids. What do they think about gay men who play heterosexuals (e.g. Sir Ian McKellan as John Profumo in ‘Scandal’?) Do they really think their so-called all loving god approves of their lunatic antics?

    I guess Mr Ashby is in the right job, given that the vast majority of his charges are likely to be god-fearing Christians.

  9. barriejohn says:

    I guess Mr Ashby is in the right job, given that the vast majority of his charges are likely to be god-fearing Christians.

    Well said.

    More on George Bush Senile (how very droll):

    “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

    “I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you’re not equally as patriotic if you’re not a religious person,” Mr. Bush said. “I’ve never said that. I’ve never acted like that. I think that’s just the way it is.”

  10. AgentCormac says:

    It’s a tragedy, but wouldn’t you think god should have been looking out for them?

  11. Paul Cook says:

    That should have had a health warning.
    I nearly died of shock that his relatives weren’t immortal.

  12. Broga says:

    A papal spokesman has asked people to unite in prayer. Bit late for that, isn’t it?

  13. Steve Utter says:

    If Bennie O. Ashby’s comments bother you as much as me, Calll the commissioner’s office for the Alabama Dept. of Corrections:
    Commissioner Kim T. Thomas
    – Berenice Artis (Executive Assistant)
    (334) 353-3870