A few days ago the American Atheists convention in Puerto Rico was announced with billboards around the island. (The convention will take place on August 21-23 at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino in Old San Juan.)
Just hours after this announcement was made in the local newspapers of the island, one of the organizing groups, Humanistas Seculares de Puerto Rico (Secular Humanists of Puerto Rico) started receiving death threats over social media.
When confronted, one of the people that threatened Humanistas Seculares de Puerto Rico just answered:
Along with the threats of violence, there were also threats against several of the members of various groups on the island. The threats were taken very seriously and Humanistas Seculares de Puerto Rico has already filed a police report and submitted a tip to the FBI (which has jurisdiction on the island because it is a U.S. territory).
Why all the anger?
Over the past few months, atheist groups in Puerto Rico have been very active on the island due to several church/state violations. As a result, there have been numerous interviews on TV and radio with members of Ateístas de Puerto Rico and Humanistas Seculares de Puerto Rico bringing the freethinker groups and their members to the limelight.
Last month, the governor of Puerto Rico announced that gender equality was going to be included in the public school curriculum. Several religious groups organized a protest against it in front of the capitol. Atheist and religious groups in favor of this measure also met at the capitol to voice their support. The measure was approved and will be implemented starting in August.
The groups have also being very active in expressing their opposition to unconstitutional Prayer and Fasting Decrees in several towns around the island and a police road block in the town of Santa Isabel to pray for motorists. The Puerto Rico constitution states in Article II, Section 3: “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. There shall be complete separation of church and state.”
Not everyone wants to respect that idea. We’ve seen what’s happened in Paris and Copenhagen with the attacks linked to religious extremism. Our situation, while thankfully limited to words, is serious and we hope the threats are just a bad joke. In any case, the authorities are investigating this situation. We hope the event in Puerto Rico turns out to be a success and that it’s just the first of many atheist gatherings in “La Isla del Encanto.”