Free Speech

Evangelist Trash

photo (8) Earlier this week I came home to this. A doorknob flyer inviting me to the latest and greatest church in the area. It invited me to “Get a fresh start with a new church.” But, all I saw when I read it was, “Here, YOU throw this away.”

I recently moved to a huge apartment community and it must be the honey pot for evangelism because, let me tell you, I have never been evangelized more in my entire life. Every other day there is a note on my door, something on my car or someone either approaching me or knocking on my door. I see Mormons riding their bicycles throughout the community and I see remnants of discarded flyers blowing in the wind, polluting our streets and eventually, I’m sure, our ocean (I only live a few miles from it). Most of the time my husband and I welcome the face-to-face interactions– there is nothing funnier than the face of an evangelist when you tell them you are an atheist. I mean. they’ve heard of atheists before but they never thought they would be existing here, with everyone else, just like normal people! Hilarious.

But, alas, we rarely get the face-to-face interactions anymore and, instead, are subjected to throwing out expensive flyers purchased by tithes from the gullible and distributed by volunteers who actually believe that they are making a difference in the world. If only people would quit volunteering for their churches and started volunteering with non-profits that actually do make a difference in the world… but I digress.

Seeing these things infuriates me. They infuriate me because now I have to figure out what to do with it (which is even more bothersome if I come across one on my car and I am nowhere near a trash can. I can’t just throw it on the ground!) and, even more so, because of the presumptuousness of its distributor to think that it was OK to place their message on my property. I never gave anyone permission for that. How is it that we are supposed to respect other people’s property yet, placing your message on their property without their permission is not seen as disrespectful? Well, I think it is incredibly disrespectful. I don’t go around putting anti-theist sentiments on people’s cars and doors, nor do I approach strangers about my beliefs in hopes that they will agree with me and join my cause. It’s just rude. And, because I don’t do it to others, I expect that they not do it to me. So, when it does happen, as it inevitably does, it makes me just that much more mad about it.

But, how can I fight it? Obviously I’m not around to ask them not to litter my property. So how can I stop it? Can I complain to my apartment complex to have them crack down on solicitors? Can I complain to the city council and/or the mayor to sign an ordinance forbidding such marketing practices without express permission from the recipient? Or, does this fall under free speech? Will this impede on their rights to be able to express themselves? Can’t this be compared to SPAM emails? You must subscribe and/or give permission for people to send mail to your inbox, so shouldn’t the same permission be needed to place messages on other people’s personal property? Any sort of potential action is going to take much more research on my part regarding the laws already in place around this issue as well as a little more motivation to be able to handle the time commitment and follow-through I know this will involve. Until then, I guess I’ll just have to settle with bitching about it.

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