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Atheist voice censored in Wilkes-Barre

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In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Justin Vacula of the NEPA Freethought Society (North Eastern Pennsylvania) paid his city's, city hall for a banner to read, "nothing fails like prayer", to hang from the public square of the city. It was supposed to go up on Apr. 28, but wasn't put up until May 1st. When it was put up, it was hidden by being put on the wrong side of the scaffolding, where most people won't read it. On the side where people will notice the signs, were signs for the National Day of Prayer, event.

This banner was in promotion and honor of the National Day of Reason, on the same day as the prayer event, May 1st.

Now, the prayer banner was put in the right place and put up on the right date. Why not so with Mr. Vacula's banner? Simply because the content of the message was disliked by government officials of the city who illegally and unconstitutionally favored the pro-prayer message.

Now personally, while as an atheist I will agree that "nothing fails like prayer" is an accurate, it is too negative in the eyes of those who will read it. I favor a more positive message that promotes science and the usage of reason.

But anyway, Mr. Vacula and the NEPA Freethought Society paid for a certain message to be put up at a certain time with other messages, and the city, through officials who didn't like his message, didn't meet that contractual agreement.

The government, no matter how small a unit it might be, is not an arm of any church. It must be content neutral, especially when it comes to religious matters. Though it often violates this by a promotion of a god or religion, by putting a deity on our money or in our Pledge of Allegiance.

If the pro-banner prayer event was put up on the wrong date or hidden, you can bet there would be outrage from pro-theocratic media such as Fox News. In cases like this, when the rights or voices of atheists and atheist groups are violated, there is a collective shrug.

Well, I am not going to shrug and I hope other people don't either. If you are a blogger or writer, please write about this or link to my column.

The religious right-wing own media outlets like Fox News, as I mentioned before. The message of atheism or humanism is largely a matter of blogs, with a few books published by writers such Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris or the late, Christopher Hitchens.

Please politely contact Bill Barrett, chairperson of the Wilkes-Barre City Council and urge him to ensure that the city does not violate the rights of atheist groups or individuals in the future.

wbarrett@wilkes-barre.pa.us

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