Church of Bacon Protests Wells Fargo
Car horns blaze as they stop at the intersection of Charleston and Las Vegas Boulevard on Thursday afternoon, but it has nothing to do with the usual ebb and flow of rush hour traffic.
A group of nearly 50 protesters wearing “Praise Bacon” shirts crowd the sidewalk and hold up four-foot long images of the meat. They bounce signs that say “HONK IF YOU’RE ATHEIST,” and cheer every time they hear the beep of a passing vehicle.
“Bacon is our God. Because bacon is real.”
This statement and the image of hands in prayer, clasping America’s favorite slab of pork, are plastered on a billboard above the protestors. The billboard promotes the United Church of Bacon, a church comprised of atheists, secularists and skeptics.
The billboard is specifically situated to tower over a Wells Fargo branch. Why? Because worshipping bacon allegedly influenced a bank employee to refuse to notarize a church document.
John Whiteside, founder and ‘Bacon Prophet’ of the United Church of Bacon, walked into the Wells Fargo branch on Las Vegas Boulevard last April to have a form notarized. This form would allow someone to become an officiate of the church and perform church services, such as granting marriages. The employee declined his request, due to the fact that Whiteside’s church rejects God. Although Whiteside had the document notarized at a different Wells Fargo location, the company has not apologized for the employee’s actions.
Hence lies the reason for Whiteside’s call to action against religious discrimination. Prominent atheist, secularist and humanist supporters came from across the country this afternoon to address the issue of unequal rights given to non-deist churches.
David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, flew to Las Vegas from New Jersey to protest after Wells Fargo backed the employee. Silverman has appeared on well-known TV shows such as “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Hannity” to speak about atheism and its negative social connotations.
“All they [Wells Fargo] have to do is apologize, and we’ll go away. But they won’t do that,” Silverman said. “They’re just protecting their corporate policy of discrimination.”
Silverman said that if any other religious group, such as Muslims or Jews, went to have a form notarized, the bank would not have refused. Because of the Church of Bacon’s name and religious beliefs however, he feels that the notary brought personal beliefs into the decision to refuse signature—which a notary is not allowed to do.
“We have fun with the names, but we have a serious purpose,” said Johnny Monsarrat, ‘Funkmaster General’ at the United Church of Bacon, and Alliance Director of the Secular Policy Institute. “There’s a lot of prejudice against nonreligious people. We just don’t always see it.”
According to Monsarrat, a study conducted in 2011 at two universities found that Americans hate atheists more than they hate rapists.
“We will not take it. We will not relax,” Silverman said. “We will not accept second class citizenship—no one should.”
Atheists weren’t the only ones protesting for fair treatment.
Monsarrat’s cousin, Shelagh Talbot, believes in the divine power of the universe. She flew in from Maine just to attend the protest. As a notary herself, she attested to the wrongdoing of the Wells Fargo employee.
“I do not believe in discrimination, although I do believe in God,” Talbot said.
Toni Pacini, who is authorized to perform weddings, ceremonies and other services for the Church of Bacon, believes that this discrimination is completely unwarranted. “We’re actually what a church is supposed to be,” said Pacini, in reference to the fact that the Church of Bacon does not accept donations, is not tax-exempt and raises money for charities.
Another protest will be held on Friday at the same location. As a result of these protests, Whiteside said that he doesn’t want any money. He doesn’t even want the individual fired. All he really wants is an apology—and for the discrimination to end.
As the hour-long protest wrapped up, Talbot quoted author Kurt Vonnegut: “‘We’re all bozos on this bus.’”
“We’re all in this together,” Talbot said. “Why not just be loving and caring to one another?”
Pacini laughed and agreed with her. “If there is a God, let him sort it out. You can’t go to Hell for stupid.”
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