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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

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Updated FFRF Statement on Coos Bay

Earlier this week, a person or persons identifying themselves as representing nonreligious veterans claimed responsibility for two explosions involving the cross memorial in Mingus Park and the Bay Area House of Prayer in Coos Bay, Ore. Local freethinkers, state/church advocates and FFRF had previously asked that the town of Coos Bay move or remove the Christian memorial to Vietnam War vets, since it violates the Constitution. Bizarrely, an explosive device was left near the chapel at Bay Area House of Prayer, which had volunteered to host the Christian memorial, if the city agrees to its removal.

This group has no website or verifiable existence. An anonymous threatening letter dated September 6, 2013, was sent to members of the Coos Bay City Council, City Manager Roger Craddock, and the local newspaper, The World. The letter demands the City of Coos Bay remove the cross memorial at Mingus Park and threatens further violence if the demands are ignored. According to a news story from The World, the “authenticity [of the letter] is in question.” The Coos Bay Police Department, FBI and Oregon State Police are investigating these incidents.

FFRF strongly condemns any violent and reckless acts. We have never, and will never, advocate or employ violence against those with whom we disagree. FFRF’s goal is to enforce the law, to ensure that the government complies with constitutional principles that are a bedrock of our secular republic. We expressly do not accomplish that mission by inciting anyone to lawlessness — quite the opposite. We encourage members and citizens to stand up for the law — the First Amendment, which protects all of us, through educational activities.

FFRF encourages anyone in the Coos Bay area with information about these cases to call the Coos Bay Police Department at 541-269-8911. FFRF hopes the person(s) or group responsible for these senseless acts are apprehended soon.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation opposes the illegal construction of temporary structures called sukkahs that are annually placed on Brooklyn, N.Y., public sidewalks each year for the Jewish holiday Sukkot.

Observant Jews eat inside outdoor booths during the festival Sukkot. Sukkahs are intended to represent the temporary dwellings claimed to have been used by Israelites while "wandering the desert." This year, Sukkot will be celebrated Sept. 19-25.

The sukkahs often block public sidewalks and disregard city codes of safety. Most of these structures have been built without permits, but are often taken down before city enforcement action is taken.

FFRF, a national state/church watchdog in Madison, Wis., has over 19,900 members with more than 1,100 in New York state. On Sept. 6, FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott sent a letter to the City's Department of Sanitation Bureau of Legal Affairs to address these sukkahs. FFRF had sent a previous complaint in 2012.

The Bureau of Legal Affairs had responded to FFRF's 2012 complaint on Jan. 8, 2013, stating: "The above mentioned sukkahs were not issued permits authorizing their construction by the City. When a permit is issued for such construction, permittees are instructed that such construction must allow for the free flow of pedestrian traffic. Based on the pictures you enclosed, it appears that the structures impeded the flow of pedestrian traffic and would therefore constitute a sidewalk obstruction."

FFRF stated in its follow-up letter: "The Department has not done enough to address this problem."

Elliott added, "FFRF urges the Department to inform all staff about this issue so that the violations do not continue to evade enforcement. The Department must also take prompt enforcement action when violations are reported so that one religious group does not continue to receive preferential treatment."

FFRF contends that the structures public sidewalks disregard city codes, and that non-enforcement of current policies regarding the sukkahs give the appearance of government endorsement of religion and religious favoritism.

If you live in New York City and sukkahs are obstructing sidewalks, you can report violations by calling 3-1-1 or filing a complaint HERE. 

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator


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FFRF is a member of Atheist Alliance International.