Koran-Burning Pastor Will Square Off Against Atheist at Florida City Council Meeting Tonight

Last week, I posted about how the Pinellas Park City Council (in Florida) keeps a copy of the Bible next to the Mayor’s seat atop the dais in City Hall:

City officials argue there’s a historical purpose for the Bible being there, but there’s nothing historical about it. It’s a Bible that was gifted to them by the local Kiwanis Club several years ago, certainly not a good enough reason to give it such a prominent position at meetings.

Tonight, the Pinellas Park City Council will have its monthly meeting, and they’re in for a media treat: Terry Jones, the pastor who caused worldwide controversy with his “International Burn A Koran Day” on September 11, 2010, will be at the meeting tonight:

Dr. Terry Jones and Stand Up America Now will be attending the Pinellas Park City Council meeting on January 23, 2014 to defend the right to display the Bible.

No where in the Constitution do you find the statement of “separation of church and state”.

Local governments should be allowed to make their own decisions concerning the displaying of the Bible and acknowledging God. That individual freedom and it should not be taken away because it is in agreement with the vast majority of the people in the United States who believe in a God and a Creator.

When you have a guy like that on your side, shouldn’t you know you’re doing something wrong…?

Jones will be met there by atheist David Williamson of the Central Florida Freethought Community, who will represent FFRF and speak against the Bible on the dais.

According to an advance copy of remarks that Williamson will be making tonight, the focus will be on the secular nature of our government and how the council is inadvertently excluding atheists with its actions:

To place a Christian bible on this dais — at the very seat of government — is to proclaim that Christianity, the religion of only one segment of the populous, as the religion for all. But this Council represents more than Christians. You represent Jews, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, and yes, even atheists. Non-Christians are your constituents, your friends, your neighbors, your family, and your own city staff.

Floridians come from a wide variety of faith traditions and of those who claim no religious affiliation. More than 3 million Floridians are nonreligious and more than 4.1 million are not Christian. To place the bible in a favored position is to alienate those millions. The bible announces to those millions of citizens that this government thinks they are second class.

In society today, we have to work very hard to see past religious divisions all day, every day, so we can focus our attention on the important business we must do together. We can only accomplish this if we embrace and accept our differences. Yet when we come here to work with you and serve the community alongside you and your staff who conduct the important business of this city, whether Christian or Muslim, Jew or Hindu, believer or nonbeliever, the bible only reminds us of these divisions.

I urge you to stop dividing your citizens and to unite them as one nation, indivisible. Remove your Christian bible from the dais, and replace it with a copy of our Constitution.

I can just see the post-meeting stories now: Atheist makes sensible speech promoting inclusion of everyone. Muslim-hating pastor argues for majority rule when it comes to religion in government. City council sides with pastor.

Prove me wrong, city council members. Prove me wrong.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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