FFRF banner and others enjoy extra display days

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Marie McCormick, Wilkes-Barre City Administrator
Marie McCormick, Wilkes-Barre City Administrator

Wilkes-Barre City Administrator Marie McCormick promised the FFRF banner would hang for extra days, but so did other banners.

I have been writing a good deal about the ‘Nothing Fails Like Prayer’ banner I, with help from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), displayed on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre in response to a National Day of Prayer event dubbed Circle the Square With Prayer. There have been many complications.

To recap, the banner was hung three days late and was unprominently placed in comparison with a National Day of Prayer banner and a ‘May is Mental Health Month’ banner. I recorded a discussion I had with city officials in which I asked why the FFRF banner was unprominently hung. Toward the end of the conversation, Wilkes-Barre City Administrator Marie McCormick said that to remedy the situation she would have the FFRF banner hung for ‘a couple more days.’

Watch the conversation included below.

The ‘couple more days’ came and the FFRF banner was displayed until May 14 — a day before the Fine Arts Fiesta began — but the other banners commemorating Mental Health Month and the National Day of Prayer hung alongside the FFRF banner.

Why would the other banners receive extra time, especially amidst a promise that the FFRF banner would receive extra time? This extension, in light of the other banners hanging alongside, seems to be nothing special, but rather seems to be a lack of effort on behalf of city workers who allowed all of the banners to hang until the Fine Arts Fiesta began.

Three banners hang on 5/12/14
Three banners hang on 5/12/14

I filed open records requests on May 6 to find more information — among other items — about the other banners. Rather than responding in five days as is traditionally the case, city officials — citing staff shortages — invoked a 30-day extension to respond to my trivial request I now additionally wonder whether the individuals responsible for the other banners paid for extra time or whether the city, for no good reason, provided extra time for the other banners.

McCormick’s remedy, to provide extra time for display of the FFRF banner, was initially unappealing because the prayer event had concluded, the banner was hung three days late, and the unprominent placement of the FFRF banner was so egregious.

The special extension of time, though, is not so special when other banners were also hanging. At least the FFRF banner was placed in equal prominence with the other banners…but this should never have been an issue to begin with. Wilkes-Barre city officials, when accepting banners to be displayed from citizens, should not offer more prominence for religious perspectives when compared with dissenting views.

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