To Protest Manger Scene at Capitol
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, whose Winter Solstice Display has created a media furor at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia, is putting its Winter Solstice sign in the Illinois State Capitol today.
The Madison, Wis.-based Foundation is the largest national association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics), with 13,000 members nationwide and more than 500 in the state of Illinois. The Foundation works to protect the constitutional separation between religion and government.
The Foundation applied for a permit after Illinois members contacted the state/church watchdog, asking it to protest the decision to permit a religious group to plant a nativity display in the Capitol for the month of December.
"We don't think religion--or irreligion--belongs in state capitols," noted Dan Barker, Foundation co-president and author of the new book, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists.
"But if a state is going to permit a nativity display and create a public forum, then we want to be sure that the views of the 16% of the U.S. population who is not religious are also represented."
The pretty green and red sign contains a secular message, composed by Anne Nicol Gaylor, Foundation co-president emerita, which reads:
"At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail."
"There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.
"There is only our natural world.
"Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
"This sign is a reminder of the real reason for the season, the Winter Solstice," says Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president.
The Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, takes place on Dec. 21. The natural holiday signals the return of the sun and the new year, and has been celebrated for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere with festivals of light, evergreens, feasts and gift exchanges.
"We nonbelievers don't mind sharing the season with Christians," Gaylor adds.
An engraved sign with the same wording has been erected by the Foundation for 13 Decembers in a row at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis.
The Foundation, at the request of Washington State members, placed a similar sign on Dec. 1 at the statehouse in Olympia. Bill O'Reilly has relentlessly attacked the sign on his Fox TV show."