Please post your opinions on this topic, I would be interested to hear them in light of your constant support of freedom of speech. I would hope that you would state that even though you disagree with the atheists, that their freedom of association and speech should have been upheld.
I do believe in freedom of speech. I also believe the state has a right to control such demonstrations and to issue permits and to disallow certain types of demonstrations, given certain circumstances.If atheists want to have an event or a demonstration, they should have the right to do that. However, I do not believe people should have the right to attack legitimate gatherings of religious people with the sole purpose of causing disruption and distress to those in attendance.If they want an event, have their own event. Don't try to capitalize on someone else's event because they know that one will have a much larger audience. That's just cheap.Not long ago, gay and lesbian supporters staged a demonstration and march in my city. Obviously certain religious groups may have opposed this, but if a small religious group went there with the sole intention of disrupting this gathering and causing havoc, the police would have intervened and asked them to discontinue their disruption.Atheists realize that the pope attracts millions of people and these people come out to see the pope. They also realize that an atheist gathering would probably not attract very much interest. So they try to hijack the pope's visit to make some sort of point. I think that's cheap and a dirty trick.Part of freedom of speech is the ability to demonstrate without intimidation from other groups. These atheist groups are planning to intimidate Christians and make them uncomfortable and to cause havoc. This would be denying the free speech of those Christians gathered to witness the pope.
In defense of the right to protest, I have to point out that the value of a demonstration is largely contextual. Especially given the presence of the Pope, the circumstance warrants direct protest. When one believes an action to be morally reprehensible, to not protest it is equally despicable. For example, when the KKK marches there are almost always counter demonstrations. While many may not see this situation as the same, they are certainly parallel in the eyes of the law.