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Atheists postpone protests after Bangladeshi disaster

(RNS) Atheist and secular groups were divided on whether to continue with a series of protests aimed at Bangladeshi institutions after a building collapse in the capital city killed at least 244 people.

Embassy of Bangladesh in Washington, D.C. photo courtesy thisisbossi via Flickr (

(RNS) Several atheist protests planned for Thursday (April 25) outside Bangladeshi embassies and consulates were postponed in the wake of Wednesday’s building collapse that killed at least 244 people in that country’s capital, Dhaka.

bangladesh embassy

Embassy of Bangladesh in Washington, D.C. photo courtesy thisisbossi via Flickr (

A coalition of secularist advocacy groups originally planned to rally in London and several cities in the U.S. and Canada over the arrests of four atheist bloggers who were charged with blasphemy in the officially Muslim nation.

Some of the protests were postponed until May 2 after Bangladesh declared Thursday a day of mourning for the victims of Wednesday’s collapse.

Thursday’s rallies in Washington D.C., New York and Columbia, Mo. were scheduled to go on as planned, but rallies in London, Ottawa, Calgary, Toronto and Dhaka were pushed back until May 2.

The U.S. groups — led by American Atheists and the Secular Coalition for America — decided to continue with protests as originally planned, while the International Humanist and Ethical Union, the U.S. and Canadian branches of the Center for Inquiry, and the British Humanist Association decided to postpone.

“My decision to continue … is based on the fact that I feel this is an urgent problem,” American Atheists’ president David Silverman said. “People are in jail for doing nothing but self expression, and that is wholly immoral. This protest is weeks in the making, international in scope, and we aren’t canceling it because of an impromptu day of mourning imposed by the very people imprisoning atheists like us.”

Paul Fidalgo, director of communications for CFI, said the decision to postpone the rallies was difficult, and involved consideration of embassy and consulate workers who might have friends and relatives who are victims of the collapse.

“With their feelings in mind, and the fact that the officials’ attentions would be so firmly on their own country’s disaster, we thought it best to move the protest later to when it would have more of its own space,” he wrote on CFI’s website.

“And we also support the decision of those who opted to go ahead today. We all believe deeply in defending the right (to) freedom of expression.”