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PROTEST: Saturday, September 27th, in Bedford County, PA


WHO: Truth Wins Out, American Atheists, and Pennsylvania Nonbelievers

WHAT: The three organizations will be holding a joint press conference and demonstration in Bedford, Pennsylvania, where a fourteen year-old child is being tried in juvenile court in Bedford on October 3 for “desecrating” a Jesus statue, after pictures were posted on Facebook of the teen simulating a sex act with the statue. The teen did no damage and the religious organization who owns the statue does not wish to prosecute, but a rogue district attorney has chosen to do so, under a questionable interpretation of a Pennsylvania law which bans “desecration” of religious objects. Truth Wins Out, American Atheists and Pennsylvania Nonbelievers will come together to speak out for freedom of speech and freedom of religion for all, including minor children who pull pranks that may offend some religious believers. In attendance will be Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen, American Atheists President David Silverman and Pennsylvania Nonbelievers President Brian Fields.

WHEN: Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 12:00 PM.

WHERE: The event will be held on public space at the center of Bedford, Pennsylvania, near the steps of the courthouse where the youth is to be tried. The courthouse is located at 200 South Juliana Street.

BACKGROUND: In Bedford County, Pennsylvania, a fourteen year-old child is being tried in juvenile court for “desecrating” a statue of Jesus on the grounds of the Love In The Name Of Christ organization outside Everett, Pennsylvania. The teen posted pictures on his private Facebook account, which came to the attention of Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins, who has decided to prosecute the child under a Pennsylvania law which bans the desecration of religious objects, including “physically mistreating [objects] in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the action.” Higgins maintains that he is simply a district attorney who wishes to uphold Pennsylvania law, but his own statements on the case undermine that claim. In an interview with local media, Higgins stated that “this troubled young man offended the sensibilities and morals of our community. His actions constitute a violation of the law, and he will be prosecuted accordingly. If that tends to upset the ‘anti-Christian, ban-school-prayer, war-on-Christmas, oppose-display-of-Ten-Commandments’ crowd, I make no apologies.” By making this statement, it is clear that Higgins is more of a frustrated right-wing radio host than a responsible district attorney. Higgins wishes to retaliate against the talking points he recited above, and he intends to do that by making an example of a fourteen year-old child.

The youth’s actions may have been in poor taste, but religious freedom does not include the right never to be offended by a teenager’s prank. Moreover, prosecution of this action is a clear violation of the teen’s own First Amendment rights.

All those, religious or otherwise, who value their own rights to stand up, speak out, and exercise their own freedom to worship or not worship as they see fit are invited to join us on Saturday as we take a bold stand for the First Amendment.

Pennsylvania Nonbelievers Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization devoted to delivering information for rational and critical thinking. We welcome atheists, agnostics, unbelievers, secularists, humanists and those whose lives are guided by a human-centered morality, not dogma, to come join our lively discussions.

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  • Kelley Glenn

    Thank you very much for your press conference and demonstration. You are on the correct and just side of this issue. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to reach out to the Love In The Name Of Christ organization and see if they would join you. Since they reportedly have accepted the boy’s apology, they may be willing to stand up against his prosecution. That would be a powerful ally, in my opinion. I wish you all the best.

  • TommyNIK

    This cannot stand.

    As a native of Pennsylvania (I now live in Ohio) and a fervent supporter of AU, FFRF, and other organizations dedicated to TRUE religious freedom in this country and the TRUE meaning of the EC of the First, I say we must fight this to the last.