With help of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) who paid for and provided a banner to be placed overlooking Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a message reading “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” will now overlook one of the busiest areas in downtown Wilkes-Barre. I was inspired to contact the FFRF following my noticing of a religious banner commemorating the National Day of Prayer and an event dubbed “Circle the Square With Prayer” [I had later protested]. My plan was to respond to the religious banner by placing an alternative message representing perspectives of freethinkers throughout the Northeastern Pennsylvania area and the world.
The government of Wilkes-Barre, in many different ways, has included other religious displays on Public Square including a menorah, a Jewish banner, a nativity scene (allegedly donated by an outside group, but still placed on Public Square). If religious groups are permitted to place pro-religious messages and symbols on government property, non-religious groups ought to be permitted to send non-religious or anti-religious messages on government property. Even better, the government ought to stay out of the business of including pro-religion or anti-religion messages on government property, but until that time, anti-religious messages will continue to be placed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre.
The message, “Nothing Fails Like Prayer,” was chosen as a response to the National Day of Prayer and the Circle the Square With Prayer event – and only so because advertising was placed on Public Square surrounding these events. Freethinkers — those who do not hold dogmatic beliefs, reject beliefs solely based on authority, and use logic and reason to reach truth — do not believe that prayer is an effective mechanism by which the problems of the world will be eradicated, but rather can make matters worse because people believe they are working toward change when they are really not. Prayer may instill false hope, lead people to ignore real-world solutions to problems, and may even result in death when needed medical attention is shunned. “All those prayers you thought would save,” as the metal group Huntress says in their song Senicide, “will be buried in your grave.”
I hope that, when considering the “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” banner, the citizens of Northeastern Pennsylvania — whether they be religious or not — tolerate and even embrace free speech which permits the Freedom From Religion Foundation and I to erect anti-religious messages on Public Square in response to religious messages. While you might not like what we have to say, you ought to understand that we — and others — ought to have the legal ability to express our perspectives. After all, since the City of Wilkes-Barre Mayor’s Office permits religious messages, non-religious or anti-religious messages should similarly be allowed.
Unfortunately, at least one citizen of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Joe McDonald, could not tolerate the fact that I and the FFRF displayed a holiday freethought message on Public Square in December of 2012. The banner, and the respective newspaper reporting in which I am featured concerning the banner, would be a short-lived time of hope. Rather than responding to the message in a civil manner or lawfully erecting a message of his own, he decided to climb thirty feet and vandalize the banner by tearing ropes which held it. McDonald then provided a local news station with an interview (watch below) proclaiming that he vandalized the banner because of the Sandy Hook shootings and said that we ought not be divided as a nation. McDonald then went on a local talkradio station, posted about his activities on his Facebook page, and embarrassed himself on an online article. [For more on the 2012 FFRF banner, see the category “FFRF banner” which includes my appearance on local newsradio, FFRF’s Freethought Radio, and much more.]
See more about the news reporting and vandalism here:
Christians of Northeastern Pennsylvania now are faced with an option. How will you respond to the FFRF banner? Will you embrace free speech and talk constructively about the issue or resort to destructive vandalism? The choice is yours…and hopefully the right decision is made. For those who want to have a constructive dialogue, I am more than happy to talk with and even debate you on, for example, whether the Christian god exists. All inquiries are welcome as my debate challenge to Northeastern Pennsylvania remains active and will even extend beyond this region. Remember Bible verse 1 Peter 3:15 – if anyone asks you for a reason for your belief, prepare a defense and do so with gentleness and respect.
As always, comments are welcome below. Interested in interviewing me for a newspaper, podcast, magazine, radio show, or other medium? Inquiries are welcome. See more of my activism and examples of interviews by browsing the ‘appearances‘ and ‘activism‘ tabs atop this page.