The same atheist group that took out billboards telling people to skip church at Christmas is now suing a shelter over allowing a blessing of the animals. American Atheists Inc. of Cranford says in a federal lawsuit that the Bergen County Animal Shelter in Teterboro is in violation of the U.S. Constitution by allowing this ritual. The fuss? Seems a Franciscan reverend, Kenneth Riehl, came to the shelter to bless the animals.

A Facebook post from the shelter on the 2016 blessing reads, "It was a very moving and memorable moment that touched us all." So what's the problem? The shelter is a government building. And when atheist Candice Yaacobi went to the shelter to adopt a dog she saw Reihl in "full Franciscan vestmants."

Miracle of miracles, she didn't melt instantly. But...

The complaint states, "As a humanist atheist, being forced into an encounter with a member of clergy in order to avail herself of government services sent Candice the message that the BCAS and Bergen County regarded her as inferior to those citizens who happened to adhere to the favored religious view."

A statement from the president of American Atheists, David Silverman, shared, "I've lived in New Jersey for more than 20 years. When I walk into a government building to use government services, the government should be absolutely neutral on religious matters. Allowing a Franciscan friar to conduct religious services with staff is the antithesis of neutrality."

On one hand, they certainly have a point. We don't think of it as so serious since it's an animal shelter. But imagine it's a courthouse with a priest blessing the prosecution team. On the other hand, was this really hurting anybody? Did Candice Yaacobi truly feel she was being regarded as inferior? Or is she just an activist out to push her agenda?

Maybe the real questions in all this go deeper. How do we know the animals are religious? What if some of these dogs were canine atheists? Were they offended at the blessing they were powerless to stop? Does the blessing bestow something important onto the animal that otherwise would not be there? Are dogs allowed into heaven with their dead owners (I'm so sorry, doggie daddies and doggie mommies) only if they receive this blessing? If not, what's the blessing for exactly? Does toilet water the dog may or may not try to drink count as holy water during a blessing of the animals? Many questions.

Frankly I'm as stumped by this whole thing as people who Disneyfy their dogs and bring them to sit on Santa's lap for a photo. Dumb. Then again, it's not mine to get. And it's not truly hurting anyone. I think atheist groups just like activists involved in race issues are doing themselves a disservice in looking too hard to turn everything into an offense. It blurs the lines and risks minimizing when true racism or constitutional issues arise.

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