Atheists Pan Sign Honoring 9/11 Firefighters

Say 'Seven in Heaven' violates church and state separation
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2011 10:05 AM CDT

(Newser) – A street sign in Brooklyn honoring seven firefighters who died on 9/11 has gotten the thumbs down from a New York atheist group, reports the Village Voice. The problem? The sign ceremonially renames Richards Street "Seven in Heaven Way," and the NYC Atheists say that any reference to heaven on a government sign violates the separation of church and state. "The problem with the sign is that you're assuming that you know what they felt deep down," says the group's president, who tells Fox News Radio that he might sue if it isn't removed. "You're assuming they even believed in heaven."

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“The attacks on 9-11 were an attack on America," adds the president of American Atheists, who has called for the sign to be taken down. "They were an attack on our Constitution and breaking that Constitution to honor these firefighters is the wrong thing to do." But some city officials are peeved about the timing of the controversy. "I think it’s a little late in the process for someone to be bringing this up now,” says one. And a rep for one city councilmember tells Gothamist, "The seven heroes have long been known as the 'Seven in Heaven.' It is the way the community and their families chose to remember them. So if that is their desire then we are happy to continue to remember them in the way that their family and fellow firefighters prefer to call them." (Read more firefighters stories.)

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