by Christopher Santarelli
of The Blaze staff

The latest fight between atheists and religious groups leaves one asking who really crossed the line.

A tank of "unholy water" used to ceremonially defile roadway

Polk County, Florida, sits smack in the middle of the Sunshine State containing several highways drivers travel through to make their way between major cities in the state. Last year, area religious leaders formed a group, Polk Under Prayer (PUP), that decided to bless the Pasco-Polk county line along Highway 98. PUP’s director said the act was done so that “God would protect us from evildoers, mainly the drug crowd, that they would be dissuaded to come in to the county.”

This gesture has apparently offended area atheists deeply enough that they felt the need to organize an event Saturday to symbolically scrub away the holy oils used by PUP to bless the county line. Bay News 9 reports that the atheists, organized by Humanists of Florida, used “unholy water” to remove the blessing and wash the road because it made them feel uncomfortable:

“But Humanists of Florida members don’t see it that way. They say it makes them feel unwelcome.

‘It sends a very bad signal to everyone in Polk County, and (anyone) who travels through Polk county who doesn’t happen to be Christian,’ Palmer said, ‘This event is not about atheist rights; this is about welcoming everybody into Polk county.’

So they took their ‘unholy water’ and washed the road.

It’s been an ongoing feud between the groups in the county: the atheists are also unhappy with prayer bricks PUP members buried along I-4 and various other roadway leading in to the county, engraved with Psalm 37. 

‘For the wicked shall be destroyed, but those who trust the Lord shall be given every blessing,’ Geringswald (PUP director) said, reading the psalm from his Bible.

Geringswald said PUP is trying to do something positive – to keep crime out and encourage faith. He says they also plan to run TV ads later this year that will say they are trying to send a positive message about criminals turning their lives around.

The humanists say they don’t plan on stopping their protests any time soon.”

Ellen Beth Wachs, the president of Humanists of Florida Association and Atheists of Florida, further explained to ABC News the motivation of the eight atheists who scrubbed Saturday:

“’This anointment ritual was to call out the angels to check each car that entered the county, to make sure they were Christian, and if they weren’t Christian, they would either follow Christian beliefs or get put in jail,’ Wachs told ABC News.

Wachs said the eight members of the Humanists of Florida Association who brought buckets of water to the roadway today did so in jest.

‘They understand that a year later, there’s no oil left on the roadway. It’s just a symbolic gesture to show that we can poke a little bit of fun at the Polk Under Prayer gesture. We’re not going to tolerate their bigotry,’ Wachs said.”

Atheist groups have found themselves in national headlines of late for campaigns against those with religious believes that raise the question of which side is really intolerant. American Atheists carried out a multi-state campaign around the holiday season last December, posting billboards on major highways that associated Jesus Christ, Santa Claus and the Devil, to myths. The same group filed a lawsuit last summer to stop a steel cross found at Ground Zero from being displayed at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Here is more on the latest clash between atheists and religious groups in Florida:

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