A New York City atheist group says it's “looking into” filing a lawsuit against the City over a street sign honoring seven firefighters who died while trying to save the lives of others on September 11, 2001 in downtown Manhattan.
The Manhattan-based group, New York City Atheists, is upset that Richards Street in Brooklyn was renamed in June to "Seven in Heaven Way" to honor the fallen heroes.
Kenneth Bronstein, head of NYC Atheists, says the sign is a violation of the Constitution’s call for separation of church and state, and that he's willing to go to court to have the sign pulled down or have its name changed.
Bronstein says he's suing the City for “spiritual product placement,” citing that “heaven” is a loaded word that obviously references Christianity.
He told WPIX 11 in New York that he's also fed up with the “conspiracy of trying to prove we're a Christian nation.”
“We are not opposed to (the memory) of these seven firefighters who died on 9/11,” Jane Everhart, Director of communication for New York City Atheists, told The Christian Post. “We just want them to change the street sign, which they will probably be required to do by law.”
According to Everhart, Bronstein has suggested changing the name of the sign from “Seven in Heaven Way” to “Remember the 7 from 9/11.”
Everhart insists that her group's lawsuit is only concerned with upholding the separation of church and state.
She added that, so far, New York City Atheists have received 28 hate letters from “religious people.” On the plus side, she added, 25 people have just joined the group, attracted by their stance over the sign to honor the seven 9/11 firefighters.
“They (religions Americans) have freedom of expression. The only thing is they can't shove it down our throats. They can't put it in public places where people feel that they are having religion shoved down their throats,” she said.
New Yorkers appear to be torn over the issue, some supporting Bronstein's group in their claim of what they see is a clear violation of the Constitution. Others, however, think the New York City Atheists are going too far.
"He didn't go in there that day and ask people what their religion [was] or whether they believed in God,” Ralph Gullickson said of his brother to the New York Daily News. “He just went to save people.”
Gullickson's brother, Joseph, is one of the firefighters honored with the “Seven in Heaven Way” sign.
Other atheists have also called on Bronstein and his group to reconsider suing the City, calling it a waste of time and money, and disrespectful to the families.
Josh Roxas, a 28-year-old atheist, told the New York Daily News, "These guys gave their lives for us. They deserve that sign."