After legal setback, Fort Worth atheists plan "banner walk" to promote event
The Metroplex Atheists have found alternative ways to advertise their event opposing Christian Nationalism
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A month after Texas atheists filed a lawsuit against the city of Fort Worth for rejecting its banners, there’s been a setback as well as a push forward.
A quick reminder: The Metroplex Atheists wanted to put up banners advertising their August 26 educational seminar at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden about the dangers of Christian Nationalism. The city has a way for local groups to do just that, but when they submitted their application, it was rejected for being “not in compliance” with the banner policy.
What wasn’t compliant? The atheists couldn’t get an answer. The only response they heard, from a city official, was that their event lacked sufficient “magnitude” for a banner hanging… even thought that word wasn’t defined and it was never something that the city said had any bearing on applications.
That’s why they filed a federal lawsuit, calling for injunctive relief and asking the courts to step in and force the city to allow their banners to go up from August 8-22. (Because the city council didn’t meet in July, the atheists needed immediate action in order for their banners to go up in time for their event.)
Last week, despite plenty of support from major newspapers in the area, the Metroplex Atheists suffered a setback when U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor denied the temporary injunction. As the Dallas Observer explained:
The judge… said that Metroplex Atheists failed to show a substantial likelihood that it would succeed in its case based on its First Amendment claim because the city’s banner program represents government speech, not a limited public forum.
The same judge apparently made the same argument in a different case… and his decision was later overturned by an appellate court. The atheists are hopeful that’ll be the case here too. American Atheists, which helped represent the Texas group, maintained optimism that they had the law on their side, saying the “lawsuit will continue as planned.”
But a final decision isn’t going to come in time for the event, which is why the Metroplex Atheists launched a billboard campaign at their own expense. The sign will be up through August 24.
And while that billboard may help spread word about the event, the atheists still want people to see the vertical banners that the city refuses to put up. So this Saturday, members of the Metroplex Atheists plan to carry those banners up and down the streets of the city.
“By carrying the banners through downtown, we are making the statement that Christian Nationalism will ultimately fail and democracy will prevail,” said Randy Word, Director at Metroplex Atheists.
Details for the march are here, and anyone who supports the group (or at least their right to advertise the event) is welcome to join them.
As I wrote before, it’s appalling that Christian Nationalists tried suppressing information about a seminar on the dangers of Christian Nationalism. Even the Dallas Morning News Editorial Board put it bluntly: “The atheists are right on this one. Fort Worth got it wrong.”
The only way to make the city’s boneheaded decision backfire is by giving this event even more attention than the banners would have provided. And then, hopefully, the courts will rule in the atheists’ favor.
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