Freedom of speech and religion are important ideals here in America -- sentiments that are continuously at the forefront of public debate. And as atheists and theists engage in ongoing, localized battles on the domestic front, it's a subject that deserves to regularly be revisited.
But it's not just America that struggles to strike a balance on these issues. Take, for instance, a drama that is unfolding in England over an atheist's window sign that has been banned and his refusal to abide by police orders to take it down.
The poster, which reads, "religions are fairy stories for adults," was proudly displayed in John Richards' window -- that is, until police told him he wasn't allowed to post it. In fact, Richards was even reportedly told that he could be arrested if the sign continued to be displayed at his home.
See, in England, the Public Order Act forbids citizens from causing anyone "harassment, alarm or distress." Such a general violation is considered when someone "uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting." In this case, the atheist's anti-faith sign falls into the latter category.
Richards, though, isn't backing down. According to the Boston Standard, he claims that he will continue to hang the poster and that the police are violating his free speech by invoking the Public Order Act.
"The police said I could be arrested if somebody complained and said they were insulted, but the sign was up two years ago and nobody responded or smashed the window," Richards said. "I am an atheist and I feel people are being misled by religion. I wanted to show people that if they thought they were alone there was at least one other person who thought that."
There's no news yet on how authorities will react, but the so-called constriction of free-speech has groups like the National Secular Society speaking out. What do you think -- are the police (and the government) constricting Richards' free speech?
Take the poll, below:
(H/T: New Humanist)