Chester (Chuck) Smalkowski, a member of American Atheists living in Hardesty, Oklahoma, has been found Not Guilty on all counts by a twelve person jury in Guymon, Texas County, Oklahoma.
The Smalkowski case attracted national attention after Nicole Smalkowski was kicked off of the girls' basketball team after refusing to stand in a circle with her teammates on the gymnasium floor of the Hardesty public High School and recite the "Lord's Prayer." After school officials learned that she and her family were Atheists, lies were created about her as grounds to take her off of the team.
The night of the verdict, tornados of unusual violence descended on the panhandle of Oklahoma. The home of the Principal who had brought the false charges against Chuck Smalkowski was severely damaged.
This fact has no relationship whatsoever to the verdict.
The story itself is funny in a sick way — a happy ending that shouldn't have been needed, that sort of thing.* The thing I called hilarious was a comment to the blog post where I found out about it.
You know, you make "Monty Python's Life of Brian"; religious nuts everywhere go mad; nobody gets struck by lightning.
You make "The Last Temptation of Christ"; religious nuts everywhere go ballistic; nobody gets struck by lightning.
You code "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas"; moralists everywhere rupture arteries; nobody gets struck by lightning.
You write "The Blind Watchmaker" and drive the creationists to fury; you remain unstruck by lightning.
Your wardrobe malfunctions on live TV; suddenly you're a moral vacuum; nobody gets struck by lightning.
But you make "The Passion of the Christ", which the fundaligionists love - and THREE PEOPLE get struck by lightning.
You persecute atheists - and your house gets ripped apart by a tornado.
It's enough to make you believe a) that there's a god and b) he's on the atheists' side...
Just to toot my own horn, I noticed the passion of Thor at the time. I think the commenter at Pharyngula got the number of people struck by lightning wrong, but maybe he just meant "people got struck by lightning three times", or maybe a third person was hit after the article I read, I don't know.
Of course, there's no need to read too much into this. Unlike the other five controversial events the commenter mentioned, "The Passion of the Christ" was the only one for which its creators had to spend a whole lot of time on a hill, during stormy weather, with lots of metal objects, with one guy on a large pole for good measure. The fact that that crew got struck with lightning a lot probably has more to do with their sense of self-preservation than a divine message.
* DISCLAIMER: I couldn't find anything about this on Google News. I'm sure the story isn't totally fabricated, but my only experience with the American Atheist Magazine is an interview which struck me with just how bad it was. Not incorrect or offensive, just plain bad, boring, and focused on the least interesting facts about the interviewee. On a similar note, capitalizing words like "atheist" is akin to multiple exclamation marks. Technical writing skill does not correlate perfectly with reliability, even in a magazine, but it's worth mentioning.