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Atheists challenge ‘Heaven’ on New York City street sign
July 6th, 2011
04:47 PM ET

Atheists challenge ‘Heaven’ on New York City street sign

By Samantha Stamler, CNN

New York (CNN) - A new street sign that reads “Seven in Heaven Way,” and that was recently unveiled in Brooklyn, New York, to commemorate seven local firefighters who lost their lives in the September 11, 2001 attacks has drawn the ire of some atheists, who say they’re prepared to go to court to have the sign taken down.

New York City Atheists, a group that opposes the public use of religious references, is challenging the new sign, which was erected in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.

“We’re supposed to be a secular nation - there really should not be any religious symbolism or signage in public places,” said Kenneth Bronstein, President of New York City Atheists. “We feel that any and all people who died in 9-11 should be remembered and honored. That’s not the problem.”

Bronstein calls the sign a violation of the separation of church and state, arguing that the word “heaven” is a clear reference to Christianity.

Bronstein has contacted the city with his complaint and has proposed an alternative street name: “We Remember the 7-911.”

Groups dedicated to honoring 9/11 victims did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Bronstein’s campaign.

But some New Yorkers told CNN New York affiliate WPIX that they disagree with the New York City Atheists.

"That's nonsense,” said Anbriena Insausti, who lives in Manhattan. “The families should honor their loved ones anyway they want."

Bronstein says the group is prepared to sue the city over the sign and what it says are other unconstitutional government endorsements of religion.

“This is not a matter of faltering patriotism or public ignorance, but rather an effort to promote secularism,” he said. “We want [the sign] to be neutral. Anyone can believe whatever they want to believe.”

“We’ll die for the right to believe,” he continued. “Just don’t shove it down our throat.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • New York

soundoff (3,096 Responses)
  1. Branzinni Boombatz

    VEE, right on!!!!

    July 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  2. Ric

    Hmmmm.....isn't the worldwide use of the calender based on Christ? The majority of the world accepts it.....2011 years ago He was born....... Don't push your atheistic views on me. This country wasn't founded on secularism..... know your history and remember the ones who got you here with their lives..... you ungrateful............

    July 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  3. Richard C

    PC is changing our lives, but not for the better. It seems that there is no respect for anything.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  4. Chuck

    This is just a bit ridiculous. I'm certainly not at all religious, I think that I have enough going on in my own life here around me that I feel like focusing on more than praying to a god that I've never met or had any correspondence with and worshipping a guy who died 2,000 years ago. But the same applies to others who do practice religion and do find solace in that kind of thing in my mind. If my neighbors two houses down want to go to church as much as they can, fine, it doesn't affect me. And if these people want to honor the firefighters lost on 9/11 by referring to them as the seven in heaven, by all means go ahead. Complaining about something like this is completely missing it's point and making it about something that it really isn't.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  5. Branzinni Boombatz

    This country is going down the tubes beacause of intolerance, hatred, prejudice, misconception, and plain ignorance. We are all doomed for failure if people do not open their hearts and their minds!!!!!! You can believe in God, or not, it should not matter. All that matters is humankind, and we are continually spiraling down. I am reading the hateful comments, the personal attacks, and the pure ignorance, WE ARE ALL DOOMED!

    July 7, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Scott

      I disagree. I see great hope for the future in the fact that christians can nolonger burn atheists at the stake for disagreeing with them.

      July 8, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  6. BroNate

    Sometimes stories like this make me wonder if people just have too much time on their hands to complain about things. There are actual important issues being debated in the US these days, but this is not one of them.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Kathy S

      Most definately a case of people who have way to much free time on their hands. So says a nonbeliever. Get over it already people and find something truely important to concentrate your energies on like helping the disabled or something like that.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  7. kathic

    I favor removing In God We Trust and even I think this fight is stupid.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Michael

      I'm surprised more Christians do not favor removing "In God We Trust" from our currency. Remember the story of Jesus in the Temple expelling people conducting commerce? Wouldn't that imply that he does not want God's name associated with commerce?

      July 7, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  8. CA_Gal

    This is not a battle worth fighting, it gives all Atheists a bad name! Let them have their sign.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  9. Vee

    Finally, a group that understands that we have a separation of church and state for a reason. I have no issues with people believing what they want to believe, what I do believe becomes problematic is when, the President, the gov., the mayor or some state senator starts spouting and endorsing religious naming of public streets. We have the right to believe what we want to believe and just as I believe "Under god" shouldn't be in the pledge, I do believe that we should keep religion out of government and public buildings.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  10. Jim

    Just a bunch a cry baby liberals looking for attention. Our country is never gonna be fixed while the hippies from the 60's are running it. Liberals preach tolerance but are the most intolerant people out there. Like my grandfather... He asked who are you gonna vote for... Bush or Kerry ? I said I hate them both and don't wanna vote... So he flipped out calling me a republican and other nasty names and kicked me out of his house and we haven't talk in yrs. This coming from a man who won't allow a black person in his house. A true liberal.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • rufusclyde

      You are aware, are you not, there are lots of conservative atheists, like Ayn Rand.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Michael

      Is there a point somewhere in that drivel?

      July 7, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Gregg H

      Wow, that was a fascinating story and you are a very interesting person. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • koko

      Really shows your intelligence, nice comment for al fool...

      July 7, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • frank

      I don't understand your anecdote. Your uncle kicked you out because you're a black hippie?

      July 7, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  11. Allahisgay

    9/11 was cause be RELIGIOUS fanatics who are all now in their imaginary HEAVEN. That sign is a plain stupid disgrace – get it down.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  12. TheScribe

    "To militant Athiests: If you came from nothing, and your life means nothing, and when you die you're going to nothing....Why do you make so much out of "nothing" when it comes to the name of Jesus?

    Afraid your "nothing" is going to be a living Hell for eternity???!!!" ~C. Huffman

    July 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • scribblescribe

      F *&K Off

      July 7, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Allahisgay

      No, but centuries of inquisition and millions of Europeans tortured to death – plus countless wars and madness such as 9/11 all in the name of god or Allah – is good enough reason to act over "nothings". Your stupidity has consequences for others otherwise you would be ignored.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  13. Bibo

    What a bunch of social misfits! Obviously their "tolerance" levels are running pretty low. Kinda smacks of religious bigotry.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  14. j rey

    Correction: Your

    July 7, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  15. j rey

    Correction: Keep your religious bs out of the government!

    July 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  16. j rey

    Keep you're religious bs out of the government.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  17. Dina

    It is so interesting how when your lives are going great, you have health and happiness, your jobs and family is all well you cant find the time to Thank God, but at the very moment when you find yourself in a horric situation moments before it happens you say exactly what again ??????? God please help me ... or oh my God !!!!! come up with a better excuse to hate yourself and your lives that you have to hate God so much the creator of life

    July 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Vee

      I never look to God for answers, I'm the decider of my own fate, my life is dictated by my actions and mine alone. To say some imaginary creator is leading your path is a direct insult to the intelligence of humans. Organized religion is directly responsible for most of the worlds problem, one of which is overpopulation. Spout your religious BS but know that when people are going hungry and all our natural resources are drying up, praying to your god isn't going to do anything.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • BR

      It's tough to hate something that can't just come out of the closet for everyone to see. No...it would rather whisper in people's ears, appear in visions or to psychopaths camping out on a mountaintop staring into their campfire. Until it can just universally make itself seen and understood, it's nothing more than a gremlin.

      Nothing to hate there, but a lot of it's spokespersons are certainly deserving.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Jen71

      "Hate" and "disbelief" are two separate issues. And my parents were the creators of my life, not someone's imaginary friend.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  18. Muneef

    You mean to Ch-all-enge  is like was "The Ch-all-enger" or like the T-itanic (The unsinkable) in their Ad cam-pai-gn in which they have said that even if God wanted to sink the T-itanic he couldn't..!
    They those are ch-all-enging but who pays the price in the end with them aren't it those innocent people who were driven within such un-thankful w-a-ves of disbelieve...

    July 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • joe schmoe

      are you some kind of fffff -- uccckkkk tard?

      July 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Muneef

      How can you foretell that? It's must be you are one of those and a bigger one as well..

      July 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  19. Jesus Cristo

    I am a complete LIE! I do not exist. I just run a Sunday racket!

    July 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  20. YeahBut

    What if your satan-worshipping neighbor dies – would you want a sign at the end of your street saying "In Satan's Glory" or something similar? Stop being self-righteous a hypocrite, you can't expect others to resepct your wishes if you don't respect theirs. If they want a memorial, erect one at the stationhouse. Leave it off of public property.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • Michael

      The stationhouse is also public property.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • HereInCA

      That's not the same thing. I actually do believe in Satan and what that word means. If they named the street, Aliens' Way, I wouldn't care.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.