Wednesday Sept. 6, 2006 | I was the first person Phil Paulson told when the doctor gave him the foreboding news. He was remarkably calm for a guy who had just learned he was probably within the last half year of his life.

I was more emotional than he was about it. I told him that he had many friends and we would stand by him. He thanked me but added, “Please don’t tell anybody. I don’t want to read that some folks will consider it God’s retribution.”

I think some will indeed consider it divine retribution, but most will not. I have enough trust in humanity to believe that most Christians will pray for him.

Fair enough! I know my good friend will take it in the spirit offered even though he doesn’t share their faith in a forgiving God, or a God of any sort.

Those of us who agree with him in this hope fervently that his quest will prevail. Many of us are working to make it happen. A friend of Phil’s and mine, Steve Trunk, had already offered to put himself in the same line of fire that had been directed at Phil and his attorney.

I’ve expressed my opinion on this many times. To me, it is more than just a person who doesn’t want to see a religious symbol up there on public property. It goes to the matter of Jefferson’s wall of separation between church and state. If that wall is finally breached and crumbles, it will turn our country over to the very people who are least capable of governing it.

And the believers themselves have a huge stake in this. If we do indeed become a theocracy, only one of the more than thousand religions will end up calling the shots. If you think religious people and religious nations are hard on atheists, take a look at what they are doing to people who don’t believe as they do. Iraq, North Ireland, Kosovo, Pakistan, Sudan, Sri Lanka, India, spring to mind.

Nobody has called for retribution but some of the words of sympathy sound a bit hollow. Take Charles LiMandri, the lawyer representing Thomas More Law Center. LiMandri said, “…We don’t have any ill will toward anyone. We wish he would spend his time more productively than pursuing this lawsuit. We feel his time could have been better spent.”

I wondered if he would have said that about a Christian who pursued even unto the death a goal he’d sought for 17 years? Would he have been dismissed so blithely? Are we to consider only people who take things on faith as being truly resolute in their quests? At what point will we consider a person to be a cruel person when he asks such a question a cruel person?

But even LiMandri was outdone by Phil Thalheimer, chairman of San Diegans for the Mount Soledad National War Memorial. He said, “I don’t think he was the power behind it to begin with. I think he was just a name.”

Just a name? What on earth are you talking about? Phil and another guy filed the case without legal counsel and won it. Phil has stood, in the face of the vilest attacks for 17 years! Are you so oblivious to the obvious you can’t understand it? Or, are you just ignoring what you don’t want to acknowledge.

You’re up against a not only a stubborn man, but an intelligent one. Don’t even try to argue theology with him. You’d lose in a heartbeat. Phil knows what he’s doing and I’m positive he will keep on doing it.

Keith Taylor is program chair for the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry. He can be reached at Or, send a letter to the editor.

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