Should atheist group be allowed to wear their shirts at council meetings?
Posted: Dec 15, 2010 6:30 PM EST
Updated: Dec 15, 2010 6:30 PM EST
T-shirt trouble at a Cape Coral council meeting when an atheist group shows up in shirts with their group's name printed on the front. What city leaders did next has sparked a debate about freedom of speech.
Members of the group Atheists of Florida say they came under fire from council members for wearing shirts at Monday's meeting showing an American flag and their group's name. City brass asked members to either take off their shirts or cover them up if they wanted to address council at the meeting.
"One of the council members did make, what I would call threats, to have us removed if we did not comply," atheist Matthew Smith said, who was at the meeting, wearing one of the group's shirts.
They didn't comply but were still allowed to speak against prayer at the start of council meetings.
"I don't believe it's a religious message by any means," Smith said of the shirts.
"It becomes a very slippery slope," Cape Coral Councilman Marty McClain said.
"The charter's written in such a way that, or the council rules if you will, that we can use our own discretion, " McClain said. "They're very strict about the political aspects."
So bottom line, if you're wearing something that the council considers offense, you could be asked the change or even leave if you don't comply.
"They do have their First Amendment rights to express themselves," McClain said. "We have an obligation and a right to not display what it says. That's our discretion."
"Isn't that censorship?" Fox 4 reporter Colleen Hogan asked the councilman. He responded that it was not.
But it is according to Smith, who's also a veteran.
"I see it (the shirts) as patriotic," Smith said. "It's got this bright red, white and blue flag on it, and that's what I stand for, American values and the First Amendment."
Council voted to keep prayer at the top of the meetings and people and council members can either take part or not.
Councilman McClain says part of the reason the atheist group was asked to change was because on their first visit, they wore the same shirts, and some people watching from home told the councilman they were offended.
City of Cape Coral harasses Atheists at meeting
December 15th, 2010 9:59 am ET.
http://www.examiner.com/humanism-freeth ... at-meeting
Colleen Hogan @ FOX4NOW wrote:
"Councilman McClain says part of the reason the atheist group was asked to change was because on their first visit [11/29/2010], they wore the same shirts, and some people watching from home told the councilman they were offended."
Mayor Sullivan says it won't happen again. "I'm going to abide by the rules and have them removed if they don't cooperate"
Atheists accuse Cape council of intimidation
Story Created: Dec 16, 2010 at 3:05 PM America/New_York
CAPE CORAL, Fla - Cape Coral City Council is under fire, accused of trying to violate free speech.
The issue ignited because of the t-shirts an atheist group was wearing at the Cape Council meeting on Monday.
Members of the Atheist of Florida say they were told to change or leave.
They believe this is a personal attack and blatant intimidation.
"It's absolutely absurd they were trying to suppress our message," said Matthew Smith, from the Atheist of Florida.
Smith and other members of the group were at Monday's Cape City Council meeting to give input on prayer at the meetings.
They were wearing t-shirts bearing the American flag, a phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance, and the title, "Atheists of Florida".
When it came time for public comment they were told to change.
"We were informed that we would have to remove the shirts, turn them inside out or we would not be able to speak," Smith said.
The group says it's a personal attack, but Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan disagrees.
"It's not a personal attack. It's not intimidation. It's council rules," Mayor Sullivan told WINK News.
The council rule dictates no one should bare a message that is personal or obscene when addressing the city council at the podium.
"During the election, my campaign manager got up to the podium, she had one of my campaign shirts on. They wouldn't allow her to speak until she put a jacket on. What's good for the goose, is good for the gander," Sullivan said about the rule.
After going back and forth the group was allowed to speak, without having to change their shirts.
But Mayor Sullivan says it won't happen again.
"I'm going to abide by the rules and have them removed if they don't cooperate," Mayor Sullivan said.
The council rule is being fine-tuned to be more specific.
http://www.winknews.com/Local-Florida/2 ... z18JukCOz0
jondbest wrote:Here's the video from the Monday council meeting, edited for relevancy.
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p ... 729EF232AD
For those who don't know, council voted 6 to 2 to allow John Kieffer back in to address council WITH his t-shirt on, after he was forcibly removed by police.
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