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Isn't Jerry Coyne Ashamed of the Holocaust-Denying Freedom from Religion Foundation?

638px-Juif.JPGAs Bruce Chapman noted yesterday, Professor Eric Hedin's antagonists in the Ball State University case have recently taken up arms against, of all things, the display of a Star of David on a proposed Holocaust memorial outside the Ohio Statehouse. For goodness sake, isn't Jerry Coyne ashamed of his confederates with the Freedom from Religion Foundation?

The rabid atheist group has now turned to a species of Holocaust denial -- a "lite" version, sure. But what else should we call it when someone tries to efface the historical reality that the Holocaust was, first and foremost, a war against the Jews?

"It shouldn't single out just one group of people who was harmed during that tragedy," says FFRF co-president Dan Barker. Yes, needless to say, millions of innocent non-Jews were also "harmed" (aka murdered) in the "tragedy" (which seems like a word more suited to a fatal auto accident than it does to one of the greatest crimes in history). No one would deny as much...but that is exactly the point!

There is no special movement, deploying pseudo-scholarship and conspiracy theories, seeking to deny Nazi crimes against Slavs, gypsies, homosexuals, the handicapped -- and, indeed, Christians. Holocaust denial has the specific meaning of minimizing, covering up, or altogether denying the reality of the war against the Jews, a war that animated Hitler almost from the very beginning of his political career and largely drove German military planning and strategy in World War II.

Dr. Coyne got the ball rolling against Dr. Hedin, bringing the FFRF in after the fact, with absurd charges that the Ball State physicist violated the First Amendment by offering a "Partial Bibliography" in his "Boundaries of Science" course including some books favorable to intelligent design. Ostensibly, as a proud "secular Jew," Coyne knows the seriousness of Holocaust denial. The Holocaust was directed at irreligious Jews quite as much as it was against religious ones; Hitler offered no exemption for the "secular."

Coyne ought to be sensitive on this point. But come to think of it, he and Richard Dawkins have both compared Darwin skepticism to Holocaust denial -- which itself ought to be offensive even to someone with no sympathy for Darwin doubting or the theory of intelligent design. There are living witnesses to the Holocaust, after all, and none to Darwinian evolutionary history. The comparison, which Coyne offered specifically in the context of the Hedin case,* is grotesquely stupid and unjust in many ways. Among those, it trivializes the attempted genocide committed against Coyne's own people.

Coyne's friend Dawkins has said some other pretty offensive things on Jewish themes -- musing, for example, that the "Jewish lobby...more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see." I'm not aware that that troubled Coyne either.

The FFRF's case against the Star, or Shield, of David is, any event, not only offensive but ignorant. The symbol is being used in the proposed memorial by Daniel Libeskind not to trumpet Jewish religious belief but to invoke, among other things, memories of the badge that the Nazis compelled Jews to wear on their clothing to identify themselves, the revival of a hateful practice going back to the Middle Ages.

The status of the Star of David as a religious symbol -- as opposed to a historical one -- is itself open to debate. It does not have anything like the same weight to it in Judaism that the symbol of a cross does in Christianity. It's not sacred. Without the justification, then, that the FFRF is seeking to keep religion and state separate, what's left of their protest and implied threat of a lawsuit?

If successful, the drive to amend the Ohio memorial would accomplish nothing other than to lend support -- even if unwitting -- to those who wish to revise the historical memory of the Holocaust for transparently anti-Semitic purposes. So I repeat, isn't Jerry Coyne ashamed to be associated with these people?

* "It would be hard to find a reputable scientist who hadn’t at some point criticized intelligent design, or at least was opposed to it. If a professor was accused of teaching flat earth-ism, or Holocaust denial, would the panel have to comprise those who had no opinion on the sphericity of Earth, or whether the Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis?"

Image credit: Wikipedia.