I recently spoke with a reporter for The Citizens’ Voice concerning my upcoming protest of the “Public Square Rosary Crusade” in which I and other local secularists will advocate for separation of church and state and rebut religious claims such as the efficacy of prayer.
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Following is the interview – reproduced here for purposes of archiving:
A protest group wants a clearer separation between religion and Wilkes-Barre city government.
On Saturday, members of the group are hitting the streets with a banner reading, “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” to get their message across.
“We think our leaders should fix this world we’re living in instead of yearning for another one,” the co-organizer of the protest, Justin Vacula, said.
Vacula and members of the NEPA Freethought Society, a local group of atheists, agnostics and secularists, will stage a peaceful protest at noon Saturday on North Street, near the Our Lady of Fatima grotto.
Vacula said the protest is intended to spark conversation and fight the overlap between religion and government. The organization is not looking to stir up tension, he said.
In a press release announcing the event, Vacula focused on members of the Wilkes-Barre city council who begin meetings with prayer, which he says is “inappropriate and potentially illegal.”
“We don’t think prayer will answer real-world (problems),” Vacula said. Government-led prayer, he said, has not resolved poverty, unemployment and other issues in Wilkes-Barre.
About 10 protesters are expected to join Vacula. He encourages the public to join in.
“Every person has inherent dignity and should be treated with respect, whether or not they share our beliefs,” Diocese of Scranton spokesperson Bill Genello said in an email Thursday. “We also believe that the Church has the right and the duty to offer its voice to the discussion of public policy issues to ensure that the welfare of all is protected.”
Genello also said that any discourse Saturday should be “conducted in a respectful manner.”
This will not be the first time the NEPA Freethought Society has brought out the “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” banner, as earlier this year, it was displayed on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre.
“I think this will be the perfect place for that banner,” Vacula said.