Darrell Barker poses with FFRF's banner in 2011.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, on behalf its 1,000 Washington members, placed its Winter Solstice sign today in front of the state capitol for the second year.
The Madison, Wis.-based national state/church watchdog has over 19,000 members nationwide.
Thanks to FFRF Board member Darrell Barker, the Winter Solstice banner was erected to counter a large nativity display outside the Washington Capitol in Olympia. Barker has applied for and received a permit to keep the display up until the end of the year, for as long as the nativity scene will be on government property.
In 2008, FFRF, at the request of one of its octogenarian members in Shelton, Wash., sought a permit to display its own sign to counter a life-sized nativity display allowed for a second year inside the Statehouse. Religious, and irreligious displays, do not belong at the seats of government in public-owned government buildings, FFRF maintains, but if religion is going to be there, there must be “room at the inn” for irreligion as well.
The engraved sign read: "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."
Placement of the sign set off such a firestorm, when Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and others condemned its presence, that the governor ended public forums inside the Capitol. That was FFRF’s goal. However, the state is now permitting displays outside the Capitol, and a nativity scene has been placed by a private group in 2011 and this year.
"Our sign is a reminder of the real reason for the season, the Winter Solstice," said Dan Barker, Foundation co-president, and brother of Darrell Barker. "Christians don't own the month of December.”
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.