If atheists demand removal of pro-life banner over B.C. city street, mayor says he won’t budge
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story reported erroneously that the atheist groups had complained once again this year about the banner but their complaint happened only last year. We regret the error.
KAMLOOPS, B.C., September 12, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – If atheist groups demand once again that a city in British Columbia remove a pro-life banner authorized to fly on city-owned polls this week, saying that it violates city policy on street banners, the city has already said that it will refuse to budge.
City administrator David Trawin confirmed on Tuesday that the banner meets the city’s criteria, since it does not contain any offensive words or messages.
The blue banner, hoisted on behalf of the Kamloops Pro-Life Society, includes a silhouette of a baby, young girl, and elderly woman standing beneath a tree.
The text reads, "One life can make a difference. Protect human life week.”
The banner has been hung in the city for the last eight years, corresponding with the time Life Chain runs its yearly peaceful and prayerful public witness. Last year was the first time anyone complained about the banner.
Bill Ligertwood of the atheist group Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought has said that the city should not have approved the banner since, in his view, it violates a city policy on street banners. The policy states that banners must not "promote political parties or points of view, religious points of view, commercial ventures, controversial issues or other content that contradicts the human rights codes."
The B.C. Humanists Association, another atheist group, has also spoken out against the banner.
But Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar told reporters last year that the atheist groups had no grounds to have the pro-life banner removed. He said the banner was formally vetted and approved by city lawyers.
"Essentially, this banner — the way it's worded, the way it's structured — it was their opinion that it would not be in contravention of our policy that we could enforce," he said.
But Ligertwood’s atheist group remained adamant that the pro-life banner represented a religious position in the public square.
"Our position is that, no matter what the language is, the organization that's putting it up there is what should count, not necessarily what's on the banner," he said.
Jackson Doughart, a pro-life secularist whose columns appear in the Prince Arthur Herald, told LifeSiteNews.com that one does not have to be religious to oppose abortion.
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"Opposition to abortion, while more common among Christians, is not an exclusively-religious cause," he said, adding that the “most convincing anti-abortion arguments are not theological but based on reason.”
“Even those atheists who favour legal abortion should be careful of condemning their opponents categorically, for their are many non-believers, myself included, who feel there is more room for debate,” he said.
Tonia Howell, spokesperson for the Kamloops Pro-Life Society, told LifeSiteNews.com that while the Christian faith might be a motivational factor behind people working in the pro-life movement, her group frames the issue as one of human rights.
Science and “all the evidence” revealing the “humanity of the unborn child” in the womb is on the side of life, she said. “There is nothing that suggests that the developing individual [in the womb] would be anything other than human.”
Howell said that her group has welcomed the atheists’ complaints since it has given them “quite a lot of publicity that we probably otherwise would not have had.”
“We jokingly contemplated sending the atheist groups a thank-you card, but decided that would be a bit tongue in cheek,” she said.