|Published:||Dec 17, 2010 12:35 AM EST|
|Updated:||Dec 16, 2010 9:05 PM EST|
CAPE CORAL, Fla - Cape Coral City Council is under fire, accused of trying to violate free speech.
The issue ignited because of the t-shirts an atheist group was wearing at the Cape Council meeting on Monday.
Members of the Atheist of Florida say they were told to change or leave.
They believe this is a personal attack and blatant intimidation.
"It's absolutely absurd they were trying to suppress our message," said Matthew Smith, from the Atheist of Florida.
Smith and other members of the group were at Monday's Cape City Council meeting to give input on prayer at the meetings.
They were wearing t-shirts bearing the American flag, a phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance, and the title, "Atheists of Florida".
When it came time for public comment they were told to change.
"We were informed that we would have to remove the shirts, turn them inside out or we would not be able to speak," Smith said.
The group says it's a personal attack, but Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan disagrees.
"It's not a personal attack. It's not intimidation. It's council rules," Mayor Sullivan told WINK News.
The council rule dictates no one should bare a message that is personal or obscene when addressing the city council at the podium.
"During the election, my campaign manager got up to the podium, she had one of my campaign shirts on. They wouldn't allow her to speak until she put a jacket on. What's good for the goose, is good for the gander," Sullivan said about the rule.
After going back and forth the group was allowed to speak, without having to change their shirts.
But Mayor Sullivan says it won't happen again.
"I'm going to abide by the rules and have them removed if they don't cooperate," Mayor Sullivan said.
The council rule is being fine-tuned to be more specific.
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