Margaret Downey's Letter to Star Jones

Margaret Downey's Letter to Star Jones

Dear Ms. Jones,

The Anti-Discrimination Support Network (ADSN) receives and acts on reports of negative stereotyping of the Atheist community.

It has come to our attention that on January 21, 2001 you made derogatory and prejudicial remarks during the filming of The View. A review of the transcript indicates that you are harboring misconceptions about Atheists. According to your own statement:

"But everyone was mad when I said on the television that I wouldn’t vote for an Atheist."

The January statement you made is the second time you have been compelled to stereotype and disparaged the Atheist community. We write to you today to prevent a third occurrence. We also write to ask that you reconsider your prejudices.

Prejudice is simply a prejudgment. ADSN’s mission is to educate those who make judgments based on untrue and unproven stereotyping. Please do not close your mind to our pleas for you to view the Atheist community in a new light. This letter may not only open your mind, it may also open your heart.

To justify that Atheists should not and could not hold an elected office you said that the oath of office includes the phrase, “So help me God.” Article 2, Section 1, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution states: “Before he enter on the execution of his office he shall take the following oath or affirmation: ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.’”

So you see, Ms. Jones, an oath to God is not a requirement to hold public office. People are free to affirm while maintaining their duty to conscience. It is disconcerting to hear an experienced attorney such as yourself misunderstand something so fundamental.

Atheists do not need to say an oath to God. We are fully aware that our alliance and duty is to humanity itself. Atheists do not need the promise of a heaven or the punishment of a hell to make ethical and moral decisions. The life legacy of an Atheist serves as the only known afterlife. An Atheist’s life must therefore be worthwhile. Consequently, you will find many Atheists making good life choices and valuing a commitment to honesty. Most religious people do not understand why the honesty of an Atheist should be respected. Because it is more popular and more comfortable for people to say they are religious, it takes a truly courageous person to admit having adopted a philosophical life-stance that does not include a belief in God. You should respect that courage, Ms. Jones, not condemn it.

Joy Behar showed courage when she challenged your comments on January 21. Ms Behar equated your comment that you would not vote for an Atheist to religious discrimination. Behar was correct in comparing your prejudice to that of someone saying that they would not vote for a black man. Surely you see the hypocrisy of your words when you said that it is “Absolutely, not the same thing!” Can you not elevate yourself to a higher standard of tolerance and realize that discrimination against any group or person is wrong?

It is disheartening to think that you refuse to oppose intolerance against Atheists and actually use your media presence to elevate bigotry and prejudice. As a media personality, you have a moral obligation to help end stereotyping, hate speech, and bigotry. We find the irresponsible and derogatory opinions you express about Atheists to be morally reprehensible.

You stated that in your opinion "It is absolutely important for you to be led by a higher power so you feel as if you have some responsibility.” Atheists do not shirk responsibility because we do not follow some type of “higher power.” Most Atheists are leaders, not followers. We believe in the power of human endeavor, science, and technology to better the conditions that surround us. No God or ancient Gods have ever been proven to put an end to starvation, poverty, disease, environmental degradation, war, or human cruelty. It is only though human endeavors that we can hope to improve the world.

Even though you responded somewhat to Meredith Vieira’s reminder to you that a person could be a good person and still not believe in God, you insisted that an Atheist could not, in your mind, be trusted as President because,“you got your finger on the button.”

Ironically, you have this scenario completely backwards. Atheists live in the here and the now. We love and appreciate our life, our planet, our animal life, and our fellow human beings. We know that this is our one and only world. Wouldn’t you feel safer knowing that an Atheist who believes we only have one life would be best to control “the button?” Exactly why do you feel safer with a religious person who believes there is a heaven, forgiveness, and a chance to live again in some other place? The person who holds a belief in heaven, life after death, and salvation could well be more likely to end the world as we know it. Please help ADSN understand why you do not feel safe with an Atheist as an elected official?

You stated that "The best part about faith is forgiveness." You said this after Lisa Ling pointed out that people who profess faith have done some immoral things. Perhaps this is the reason Atheists should be admired. We do not venture into situations that beg for forgiveness. Our prisons are filled with God-fearing individuals who have committed crimes and thought themselves absolved. A twisted thought process indeed but one that you so ardently praise and condone. Atheists seek happiness that comes from a clear conscience, and a life of choices that brings both long and short term gratification. This mindset comes from knowing we have only one life and each choice we make is a crucial one. If others were taught this valuable lesson early in life, we would find a human moral compass that is built upon courtesy, common sense, respect, and a love of life.

The Atheist community has been reluctant to challenge stereotyping and prejudice such as you displayed on national television several times already. With the formation of ADSN we will no longer ignore hate speech and blatant prejudice. We will not let bigotry go unchecked. It is, therefore, important that you acknowledge this letter, issue a public apology, and sensitize yourself about the Atheist community.

We further request immediate reassurance that disparaging remarks against the Atheist community will cease.


Margaret Downey Founder and President ADSN

As of the printing of this article, no response has been received from Jones or any other representative of The View. When time permits, Downey will vigorously pursue acknowledgment of her request for the discontinuation of bigoted remarks.

"ADSN is working much like the Anti-Defamation League. Just as the Jewish community confronts hate speech head-on, so shall we." - Margaret Downey