FFRF banner not hanging despite agreement with Wilkes-Barre

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4/29/14 - Despite promise, no FFRF banner is displayed
4/29/14 – Despite promise, no FFRF banner is displayed

The FFRF ‘Nothing Fails Like Prayer’ banner which was scheduled to be displayed from April 28 to May 5 atop Public Square in Wilkes-Barre — paid for with a $50 check evidenced by a memo from the mayor’s office — is still not hanging.

Update — 8:00 AM, April 30 — The banner is still not hanging. It is now day three.

Update — 4:35 PM, April 30 — The banner is now scheduled to be displayed for one week starting May 1. More information can be found here.

Two weeks ago — a day before Wilkes-Barre’s City Hall oddly closed “in observance of Good Friday” — I paid $50 and delivered a banner to Wilkes-Barre’s City Hall to be displayed from April 28 to May 5. City Hall authorized the payment, provided me a receipt, and assured me (in writing) that the banner would hang as agreed upon. I issued a press release with the NEPA Freethought Society following the confirmation from City Hall and the banner — despite the agreement — is not yet hanging on Public Square.

I’m not sure why there is a delay. If I make an agreement with City Hall, I receive a written receipt, and provide two weeks notice before the scheduled date, I expect to receive what I paid for.

While governmental errors, staff shortages, and other explanations — rather than antipathy toward secular viewpoints — may account for why the banner is not hanging, I can’t help but think that city officials are intentionally giving me a difficult time by delaying the hanging of the banner…especially since the Mayor of Wilkes-Barre, who must approve the banner, said “sometimes our hands are tied” when questioned about the previous display of the ‘Nothing Fails Like Prayer’ banner after mentioning that he and council members or “people of faith.” Mayor Leighton also lamented my free speech, while talking about the banner, saying “We live in a free country. Unfortunately, everyone has the rights to whatever what they want to say.”

Memo from City Hall confirming banner display date and receiving check
Memo from City Hall confirming banner display date and receiving check

In previous years, following vandalism of a different FFRF banner, days passed before the banner was rehung. Despite the vandalism being featured on local news — coupled with admission of vandalism from the banner vandal on talk radio — a City Hall official dismissed my concerns and suggested that the weather was to blame. Banners were also previously hung late.

Hopefully the banner will soon be displayed. Delays are unacceptable. Like my message or not, as long as city officials permit banners to be hung on Public Square, they may not discriminate on the basis of viewpoints. I wonder if the National Day of Prayer banner, appearing last year, will appear this year. Will its display be timely or will City Hall renege on its own agreement?

I will be happy to update this post when the banner is hung as promised. Two days of delay, though, are inexcusable and should be noted. Earlier today, I called City Hall, left a message, and received no phone call in return. I shouldn’t even have to call when city workers fail to do their jobs and renege on agreements.

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