Return-Path: owner-aanews@listserv.direct.net
From: Cgastbook < Cgastbook@aol.com>
Date: Mon, 22 Dec 1997 15:46:51 EST
Subject: [Atheist] re: AANEWS for December 22, 1997
Organization: AOL (http://www.aol.com)

A Second Sign Expressing Non-Belief Is Stolen
From State Capitol Grounds

An effort by the Alabama Freethought Association to erect a display on the grounds of the Alabama state capitol building seems to running into problems, especially from thieves.

Last Wednesday, Christian groups set up a nativity creche by the capitol in Montgomery, an act which drew the enthusiastic support of leading public officials including Alabama Governor Fob James -- an unabashed supporter of prayer and religious expression in the public square. So members of the AFA decided to test the proposition that the nativity scene was just another example of "free speech" which, theoretically, should apply to all citizens of the state, religious and nonbeliever alike. AFA members prepared a sign which on one side stated: "There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

Following a press conference last Friday, members of the group then erected their sign, which according to reports in the press is separated from the nativity creche by "a broad expanse of the Capitol steps." AFA activist Adam Butler, a student at the University of Alabama, said the organization opposed the blatant endorsement by Governor James of the Christian display, which he labeled as "religious propaganda."

"Even though it is legal for this display to remain here, it is completely inappropriate for a government setting," added Butler.

AFA member Carol Faulkenberry said that the sign "should stay here (at the capitol) as long as the Nativity scene does. I want to make sure everybody had freedom and rights to believe and say what they feel."

Interestingly, the freethought sign had a Bible verse written on the back: "Thou shalt not steal." That seemed appropriate in a state where the battle over issues like public school prayer and the display of religious icons in government venues -- such as the courtroom of Etowah County Judge Roy Moore --has attracted national attention. But it didn't stop someone from boosting that first sign over the weekend, which prompted Mr. Butler to tell reporters that "the theft of the sign has only prompted Alabama activists to work harder." The group put up a second wooden sign, 8-feet by 4-feet, dwarfing the original display which was a tame 22-inches by 14-inches. "The larger the sign, the less chance there is that someone will try to steal it again," theorized Butler. He noted that the new and improved board had several hefty sand bags which secured it.

State officials, including Governor James, declined comment over the propriety of the theft, and the blatant violation of both civil rights and a Commandment -- "Thou shall not steal."

Skullduggery In The A.M.

Carol Faulkenberry has informed aanews that this morning, police at the State Capitol arrested an unidentified individual who was trying to boost the second sign -- all 32-square feet of it. The sign has been impounded as evidence of the theft, and Carol tells us that AFA is hard at work constructing a third and (hopefully) final sign. She thanked any religious enthusiasts who might have boosted the signs, saying that because of those actions, "we are getting far more media coverage than we would otherwise have expected."


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