Abolishing Resolution 58-10 (Winter displays in West Chester, PA)

Commissioner Terence Farrell

There is a public meeting in West Chester tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM where people will be able to speak on behalf of abolishing Resolution 58-10.  Here’s the information:

313 W. Market St.
West Chester, 19380

6th floor

Margaret Downey has just sent out a request for help concerning the issue of displays, including the Tree of Knowledge, at the West Chester courthouse.  Here is her request:

We have one and a half days to flood the office of Commissioner Terence Farrell with messages asking him to abolish Resolution 58-10. He is voting on Thursday afternoon so we need people to immediately request that he allow other displays on the grounds of the Chester County Courthouse. We want the Commissioners to give us back our Free Speech Zone.

Here is the contact information for Commissioner Farrell who is the swing vote. Please contact Farrell’s office — no matter where you live. Say that if a Tree of Knowledge display was allowed back on the grounds, you would travel to West Chester to see it. This will bring money into the community and proves that the Commissioners understand the diversity of the community! Get passionate about your rights and freedom of expression. Please act now.

Commissioner Terence Farrell
313 West Market Street
Suite 6202
West Chester, PA  19380
610.344.5995 (fax)

Carol Everhart Roper has an article up about this as well, which also links to  the petition (which is now closed).  Still, we have an opportunity to change some minds, if we act now.

Tree of Knowledge Event December 1st in West Chester, PA, with some historical context.

It’s beginning to look a lot like…Discrimination?

Margaret Downey helping to decorate the Tree of Knowledge in 2008

Over the least few years, the Freethought Society, led by Margaret Downey, has been involved in an effort to include atheists, humanists, and other secular people in the public holiday display area of the West Chester courthouse.  It is this very courthouse that, in early 2002, I first met Margaret Downey during the court case of whether the 10 Commandment plaque  would remain displayed there.  It still remains in place, due to it being historical since it was on the wall for 80 years.  In other words, nobody complained for many years and so it became a part of the building’s history.  What I learned from this was to complain more about violations of the church/state separation, so that this squirmy legal reasoning cannot become valid.

Starting in 2007, The Freethought Society has tried to maintain seasonal inclusion by participating in the placing of holiday displays on the court grounds, and for some years we were allowed to participate in the mostly conservative county.   The tree’s lights were vandalized a few times that first year, but it ultimately remained and the new tradition was continued the next couple of years.  In 2009, some interviews sprung up about the event, which include some video about how the tree was decorated and a little more about the history of the idea.

2010 Human Tree of Knowledge

But then in 2010, the Commissioners rejected the request to be included in the displays, and so Margaret got to work on an alternative plan; a human Tree of Knowledge, which doubled as a protest and momentary display.  The same thing happened in 2011, and now in 2012 we are left in the same situation.  The Commissioners still refuse to allow a Tree of Knowledge on the courthouse grounds, while still including the traditional Christmas and Hanukkah displays.

So, because of this continuing discrimination in West Chester, PA, Margaret Downey and many members and friends of the Freethought Society will be gathering on Saturday, December 1st 2012 in order to create a human Tree of Knowledge.  The courthouse is in the middle of West Chester, at 2 High Street, and the event will start at 3:00 PM.  

I plan on being there, and we would love to see as many people as possible come out to show your support for a great organization and to protest a discriminatory decision by the West Chester Commissioners.

Two Philadelphia atheist events this weekend

For those of you in the Philadelphia area, I have a couple of events you may be interested in.  They are both affiliated with the Freethought Society, which is run by my friend Margaret Downey, and I will be attending one of both of them.

The first is the Human Tree of Knowledge in West Chester on Saturday December 3rd at 3:00 PM.  The reason it will be a human tree rather than a real one is because the presence of a real tree has been blocked by the city of West Chester, as has been covered recently over at Hemant’s place.  I was there for at least two of the real trees before this form of protest was necessary, as I have worked with Margaret Downey and the FTS for many years.

If you are interested in following news or in networking with people involved, there is also a facebook group.  I will be there on Saturday and will almost certainly do dinner afterwords.  After that I may grab a point at the Iron Hill Brewery since I love their Pig Iron Porter so much.

The second event is the following day, Sunday December 4th, and is in Philadelphia.  More specifically it is at the Ethical Society at Rittenhouse Square.  Here is an image of the flier, copies of which may appear there in the next couple of days.

I am not yet sure if I will attend this event.  I’m not big on holiday rituals, but it may be a good time to catch up with local people of reason.

If you will be in the Philadelphia and/or West Chester area this coming weekend, make a point to attend or pass along the information to others who may be interested.