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A coalition of atheists is accusing a United States city bus line of violating their rights to free speech in a fight to place ads on public buses praising a God-free lifestyle. The Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason alleged in a lawsuit that the Central Arkansas Transit Authority in Little Rock and its advertising agency are discriminating against the group because they're being required to pay tens of thousands of dollars to put $5,000 worth of ads on 18 buses.
The ads would read: "Are you good without God? Millions are." Other groups, including churches, have not been required to pay the fee, which amounts to $36,000 in insurance in case of an attack on the buses by angry Christians, according to the lawsuit.
The insurance was requested by the transit agency's advertising firm, On The Move Advertising, officials said. Because a handful of similar ads had been vandalized in other states, the ad agency required the payment for insurance reasons, said Jess Sweere, an attorney representing the transit authority.
Pope Benedict urged French youths on Friday to help put God back into public debate, either as Christians sharing their faith or as non-believers seeking more justice and solidarity in a cold utilitarian world. In a video address from the Vatican to an evening rally outside Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris, the pope also urged them to "tear down the barriers of fear of the other, the foreigner, of those who are not like you" that mutual ignorance can create.
The Vatican has launched a series of public dialogues with non-believers, choosing leading intellectual institutions in Paris to present its belief that modern societies must speak more openly about God.
The decision to start the series in France, where strong secularism has pushed faith to the fringes of the public sphere, reflected Pope Benedict's goal of bringing religious questions back into the mainstream of civic debates.
(Image: Atheist holiday billboard/American Atheists)
U.S. Catholics and atheists are doing battle over the holiday season with dueling billboards on opposite sides of the Hudson River separating New York and New Jersey.
The American Atheists organization fired the opening shot the Monday before Thanksgiving with its billboard on Route 495 in North Bergen, New Jersey. It tells drivers: "You Know It's a MYTH," a slogan set against a traditional nativity scene with three wise men and two figures in a manger.
Atheists and agnostics may not believe in God or gods but they know a thing or two about them, according to a survey of religious knowledge among Americans released on Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
"On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 ... Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers," Pew said. It found Protestants answered 16 correctly and Catholics on average 14.7.
(Photo: Protest against Pope Benedict in London, 18 Sept 2010/Stefan Wermuth)
Pope Benedict faced the biggest protest of his 17 trips abroad on Saturday when more than 10,000 people marched in London attacking his treatment of the abuse scandal in the Church, women priests and homosexuality. Some of the demonstrators were dressed in costumes, including black leather nuns’ habits and red cardinals’ robes. Posters bore the message: "Pope Go Home."
The pope has faced protests throughout his four-day visit to England and Scotland, often competing for attention with the faithful who are solidly supportive of the trip, only the second by a pope in history.
(Photo: Queen Elizabeth and Pope Benedict in Edinburgh, 16 Sept 2010/Dave Thompson)
Pope Benedict and Queen Elizabeth delivered short speeches in Edinburgh at the start of the pontiff's four-day visit to Britain. Here are excerpts from their comments:
Pope Benedict: "...The name of Holyroodhouse, Your Majesty’s official residence in Scotland, recalls the "Holy Cross" and points to the deep Christian roots that are still present in every layer of British life. The monarchs of England and Scotland have been Christians from very early times and include outstanding saints like Edward the Confessor and Margaret of Scotland .... the Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years...
(Photo: Official papal visit memorabilia at Catholic bookshop in London September 15, 2010/Toby Melville)
Demonstrations are planned for Pope Benedict's four-day state visit to England and Scotland, with the main focus likely to be on a Protest the Pope campaign march in central London Saturday, Sept 18.
Other separate protests are planned, including a bus poster campaign by a group supporting women's ordination and a silent witness by the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland.
Pope Benedict isn't visiting Britain until September, but his trip is already making headlines there. Here are our latest reports:
Campaigners planning to stage demonstrations during Pope Benedict's visit to Britain should show restraint, the prime minister's special representative for the papal visit, Chris Patten, said on Monday.
A bus poster which claimed "There definitely is a God, so join the Christian Party and enjoy your life" attracted more complaints than any other advert last year, Britain's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said on Wednesday.
More than 1,200 people complained that the Christian Party's advert was offensive to atheists and could not be substantiated.