The Freedom From Religion Foundation has placed a Winter Solstice banner in Streator's city park today to counter a nativity scene and Christian display on public property.
FFRF is a national state/church watchdog with over 19,000 members nationwide, including nearly 700 in Illinois.
This is not the first time FFRF has openly declared its opposition to the nativity scene. Last holiday season FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott contacted Mayor Jimmie Lansford protesting the creche and its position on public property. Locals took issue with the nativity itself and the blatantly Christian sign next to the display that read: "Unto you is born the Savior Jesus Christ the Lord."
"Erecting a manger scene on public property is an exclusionary act, which tells the many non-Christian and nonreligious Streator residents and passersby that 'there is no room at the inn' for them. It's time to make room for other viewpoints, and to celebrate the real reason for the season — the Winter Solstice," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
The Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, takes place this year on Friday, Dec. 21. This 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.
In April 2012 FFRF and a local supporter placed the group's "Nobody died for our sins. Jesus Christ is a myth" banner to challenge a sign in the city park that declared: "Jesus died for your sins." Just three days after the banner went up it was stolen. FFRF was able to replace the sign and made sure to include a warning: "P.S. your god says, 'thou shalt not steal.'" The new sign stayed up for the duration of the permit.
"We think the city would be wise to exclude all displays from the park. Our banner is a protest of the city’s continued decision to permit public property to be misappropriated to promote an exclusionary sectarian message," said Gaylor. "There are tax-free churches on practically every other corner where manger scenes and crosses may be placed. City parks ought to be free of religious divisiveness."
FFRF thanks a local member for erecting the banner. Just as the nativity scene is lit, there will be two spotlights on FFRF's banner.