12/13/10 Council to Atheists: cover-up Shirts or be Ejected

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12/13/10 Council to Atheists: cover-up Shirts or be Ejected

Postby HumanAtheist on December 14th, 2010, 11:00 pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Cape Coral Council: Cover-up Atheist Shirts or be Ejected from Meeting

December 14, 2010

CAPE CORAL, Fla.– Cape Coral City officials warned Atheists of Florida members attending the December 13th city council meeting to either cover-up the message on their shirts or be ejected from council chambers. The shirts depicted a brightly colored American flag over which the words “ONE NATION INDIVISIBLE” and “Atheists of Florida” were inscribed. The back of the shirt displayed “ATHEISTS OF FLORIDA.”

The atheists were attending the Monday evening meeting to voice their concern about Resolution 51-10, which included instructions about conducting prayer invocations as part of the council’s meeting protocol.

The shirt issue started prior to the meeting when Councilman Marty McClain informed Atheists of Florida president, John Kieffer, that religious and political shirts were not permitted and that the shirts had to be turned inside-out. McClain told Kieffer that this was necessary due to citizen concerns about the organization’s shirts, which the atheists had worn to a previous council meeting. Kieffer responded that his attire simply identified the Florida non-profit corporation and that he would not comply with the order. McClain stated that he would get additional clarification and no further instructions were conveyed at that time.

During the mid-meeting break, Cape Coral Mayor, John Sullivan, and city manager, Gary King, reiterated their demands for members to replace or cover up the shirts. King indicated that the shirts were in violation of council policy. He further warned that if the shirts were still visible, anyone wearing the attire would be asked to leave and if necessary, Cape Coral police would be employed to enforce the demand. Kieffer asked to see the policy and was told that this could not be done at the time. Kieffer responded that he would refuse to comply and would accept the consequences. A few minutes later, King informed Kieffer that he believed that the shirts “should be okay.”

During the second part of the meeting, Kieffer and four other members addressed city council during the public comments about the resolution. He and fellow member, Matthew Smith, wore the atheist organization’s shirts during their address.

Mayor Sullivan introduced the shirt issue during the council discussion reading from the resolution that “during any meeting of the City Council no person shall display any banner, placard or sign that is personal, obscene, or profane.” Sullivan stated that he wanted to add “political” and “personal attire” to the rule. The resolution passed unchanged with Sullivan casting the lone dissenting vote.

Smith stated, “When city officials mentioned to us that no political or religious message was permitted on our shirts, my immediate thought was that this was absurd given their recent discussions about putting up the Ten Commandments in City Hall.”

Kieffer added: “It’s amazing to me that the mayor, who steadfastly continues to promote and endorse government sponsored religious prayers during his meetings, wanted to eject our members simply because our organization’s name on our shirts disturbed him.”


________________________________________________________________________

REFERENCES:

Resolution 51-10 (attached)
Section D: “Invocation/inspirational message, or moment of silence”
Section R: “Public Comment Opportunities;”
Part 1 (d) (iv) was quoted by Mayor Sullivan

Cape Coral meeting agenda and archive video:
http://ecape.capecoral.net/sirepub/mtgv ... pe=SUMMARY

Public comments and discussions about Res. 51-10, video time 5:03:45 – 5:52:40
Mayor Sullivan’s comments and discussion begins at time 5:32:15

City of Cape Coral website: http://www.capecoral.net/

Photo: John Kieffer speaking 12/13/2010 in protest of council led prayers
Photo captured from City of Cape Coral meeting video stream:

Image


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Re: Cape Coral Council: Cover-up Atheist Shirts or be Ejected

Postby John Kieffer on December 15th, 2010, 8:38 pm

FOX4 news video (Ft. Meyers/Cape Coral) ... http://www.fox4now.com/Global/story.asp?S=13680683

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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.

COLLEEN HOGAN
CHOGAN@FOX4NOW.COM






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Re: Cape Coral Council: Cover-up Atheist Shirts or be Ejected

Postby John Kieffer on December 15th, 2010, 11:11 pm

The following segment from the Cape Coral City video feed uploaded by Jonathan Best, one of our members at the meeting, provides some of the discussions between board members and the city attorney about our shirts ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLP2ZljW ... 251962755F

Additional relevant segments from that meeting:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p ... 251962755F


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Re: Cape Coral Council: Cover-up Atheist Shirts or be Ejected

Postby John Kieffer on December 15th, 2010, 11:33 pm

Examiner.com article by Jennifer Hancock:

City of Cape Coral harasses Atheists at meeting
December 15th, 2010 9:59 am ET.

http://www.examiner.com/humanism-freeth ... at-meeting

Image



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Re: Cape Coral Council: Cover-up Atheist Shirts or be Ejected

Postby jondbest on December 16th, 2010, 11:35 am

I was worried, when the news crews left, that we would get no exposure on this. Glad to see it got covered in print.
It was pretty shocking to hear the mayor basically say that he didn't want the citizens trying to influence council votes during public council meetings. Wow. Not a guy you can reason with.

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Re: Cape Coral Council: Cover-up Atheist Shirts or be Ejected

Postby John Kieffer on December 16th, 2010, 5:48 pm

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."

http://www.fox4now.com/Global/story.asp?S=13680683


These are images taken from the closed circuit video that those "offended people watching from home" saw:

Image
Ed

Image
Christine

Image
John

Video of members speaking to city council ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYejcDYagqk&NR=1

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Re: Cape Coral Council: Cover-up Atheist Shirts or be Ejected

Postby John Kieffer on December 16th, 2010, 7:45 pm

Cape Coral Wink TV news video ... Mayor threatens to remove AoF members ... http://www.winknews.com/Local-Florida/2 ... z18JukCOz0

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"


Image

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



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Press release 12/16/10 in response mayor's comment

Postby HumanAtheist on December 17th, 2010, 12:47 am

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

December 16, 2010

Cape Coral, FL -- Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan stated in a press interview today that in the future he would remove members of Atheists of Florida who wear their organization's shirt to city council meetings.

Atheists of Florida president, John Kieffer, responded, "Mayor Sullivan's recent actions, both on Monday to me personally and in his news interview today, are clearly ad hoc, arbitrary and capricious deployments of government power to selectively suppress what he has determined to be an unacceptable worldview. I will review the mayor's comments with our attorneys and decide within the next few days what our response will be."

The mayor's comments follow Monday's numerous privately communicated challenges before and during the city council meeting in which Cape Coral city officials, which included Sullivan, demanded that members hide their organization's shirts from public sight. The atheists were told that non-compliance would result in being asked to leave the council chambers and, if necessary, that law enforcement would be called to carry out the demand. When Kieffer asked to see the city policy regulating attire he was denied. Kieffer then stated that he would not comply and would accept the consequences. Ultimately, city officials backed down and the members stayed to deliver their public comments wearing the shirts.

The atheists were attending the December 13 meeting to speak in protest of the council's "Resolution 51-10," which included establishing protocols for conducting opening prayer rituals for city council meetings.

Mayor Sullivan's comments can be accessed in the newstory published/broadcast 12/16/2010 by the Cape Coral CBS affiliate, Winknews:

http://www.winknews.com/Local-Florida/2 ... z18JukCOz0

______________________________________________________________________________

About Atheists of Florida

Atheists of Florida, a 501-c-3 and Florida non-profit educational corporation, was founded in 1992 and serves the needs of a significant and growing community of atheists in Florida. As a civil rights minority, our members are tireless advocates for the constitutional rights afforded to them and all Americans. We encourage efforts to foster a fully inclusive sense of community, mutual understanding and respect.

With members throughout the state, Atheists of Florida chapters and meetings are located in Lakeland, Saint Petersburg, Tampa, Orlando, Port Richey, Sarasota, Gainesville and Cape Coral.
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Re: Cape Coral Council: Cover-up Atheist Shirts or be Ejected

Postby John Kieffer on December 17th, 2010, 11:12 am

To add some context from where Mayor Sullivan is approaching this issue, it's important to consider that Atheists of Florida members' original interest in visiting the Cape Coral city council was to voice opposition to the mayor's plan to place the Ten Commandments in the city hall building. That is what Matthew Smith is referring to during his interview with the news media on Dec. 16.

The following news video about the 10C issue includes an interview with the mayor about his motivation to place this religious artifact into his government facility:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF8bdUsHIOY

Image from Winknews broadcast ...
Image


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Re: Cape Coral Council: Cover-up Atheist Shirts or be Ejected

Postby Michael M on December 17th, 2010, 4:43 pm

This story made Pharyngula:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010 ... _thing.php

I can't believe they were going to throw you out. Way to stand your ground!
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Re: Cape Coral Council: Cover-up Atheist Shirts or be Ejected

Postby John Kieffer on December 24th, 2010, 2:28 am

The "A Team" (Atheist Team) that stood up to the Cape Coral goon squad Dec 13

Image

L-R ... Joel, Jonathon, Matthew, John, Sandra, Ed

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Re: Cape Coral Council: Cover-up Atheist Shirts or be Ejected

Postby jondbest on January 28th, 2011, 3:50 pm

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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Re: Cape Coral Council: Cover-up Atheist Shirts or be Ejected

Postby John Kieffer on January 29th, 2011, 12:04 pm

Hi Jon, Thanks for putting this together: I've copied and pasted your post below on the Opening Post about the events of 1/24/11 as well.

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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