Two weeks ago, in anticipation of both the National Day of Prayer and National Day of Reason, atheist Justin Vacula of the NEPA Freethought Society went to the Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania) City Hall, gave them a check for $50, and handed them a banner reading “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” to put up in the public square. That banner was supposed to go up on April 28. For whatever reason, city officials didn’t put it up until three days later… but it’s finally up!
There’s the banner about Mental Health Month, and the banner for the National Day of Prayer, and… hey, wait, where’s Justin’s banner?
You can’t see it.
You have to go to the other side of the scaffolding — the part that people won’t actually see during the Circle the Square With Prayer event — to find his message:
That’s where city officials placed it, despite Justin following all the rules they set out.
It’s not like they ran out of space on the front side — they just didn’t want people to hear a message that went against the popular Day of Prayer. (In fact, on St. Patrick’s Day, the city hung six banners on the front side of that scaffolding.)
Justin doesn’t understand it and, frankly, neither do I:
Will city officials address my concerns surrounding the unprominent display of the FFRF banner?
Why are citizens being treated differently when they are supposed to receive the same quality of services for payments received by city officials?
All I ask for is equal treatment. If Wilkes-Barre provides a public forum, they should display all messages equally lest they want to cease their public forum altogether.
You can bet that if the roles were reversed and the Christian banner was on the side-less-traveled, evangelicals would be pissed off. So where are the Christians speaking out on Justin’s behalf here? If the government allows religious and non-religious groups to pay for banners in the public square, they don’t have the right to decide that an atheist’s message should get the shaft.
I’ve emailed City Council Chairperson Bill Barrett to ask why the banners were placed as they were and will let you know if/when he responds.