Bedford County, PA—On Thursday, three atheist groups—American Atheists, Pennsylvania Nonbelievers, and Truth Wins Out—announced a joint press conference and protest in Bedford County, Pennsylvania on Saturday, September 27 at 12:00 PM on 200 South Juliana Street at the steps of the Bedford County Courthouse.
The demonstration is in protest of the September 10 arrest of a 14-year-old child, who will be tried in juvenile court on October 3, for “desecrating” a statue of Jesus after the teen posted pictures of himself simulating a sex act with the statue on his personal Facebook account. The teen did no damage to the statue, and the religious organization that owns the statue does not wish to prosecute. However, a rogue district attorney has chosen to press charges under a questionable interpretation of a Pennsylvania law which bans “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.”
Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins, the prosecutor, made a clear, taunting reference to American Atheists and its famous legal fights for separation of religion and government when he stated about the current case: “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-
“In America, separation of religion and government is one of the foundations of the law,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “While this teen’s action may have been distasteful to some, prosecuting this case at taxpayer expense is a clear abuse of the district attorney’s legal authority, and is a clear symptom of his personal bigotry against atheists, an alarming attitude for any prosecutor, and especially one in a state where 30% of the population is not religious. Blasphemy is not a crime and freedom of expression is a human right.”
In addition to Silverman, in attendance will be Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen and Pennsylvania Nonbelievers President Brian Fields.
The statue, located outside Everett, Pennsylvania, is owned by the Love In The Name Of Christ organization.
Dave Muscato, Public Relations Director 908-276-7300 x7, [email protected]
AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that defends civil rights for atheists, freethinkers, and other nonbelievers; works for the total separation of religion and government; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy. American Atheists was founded in 1963 by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
American Atheists, Inc.
P.O. Box 158
Cranford, NJ 07016
Tel: (908) 276-7300
Fax: (908) 276-7402