The Freedom From Religion Foundation is challenging a nativity scene in North School Park in Arlington Heights, Ill., with a message about the "real reason for the season."
Despite being called "spoil sports" by a local resident, members of FFRF Metropolitan Chicago Chapter say that posting the group's Winter Solstice banner went without a hitch.
FFRF's 7½-by-3 banner states: "At this Season of the Winter Solstice, LET REASON PREVAIL. There are not gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth & superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
A group calling itself the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee (INSC) urged the Arlington Heights Park District to incorporate a nativity scene into the park's annual holiday display back in November. The Park District typically hosts a secular light display that features seasonal toys. The Thomas More Society, a Christian legal group representing INSC, argued that the Park District should incorporate a nativity scene into the government display. The Park District turned down the request and ultimately granted a permit to the committee to place a nativity scene in a separate area of the park.
Given the controversy, the Park District may adopt new rules on whether to allow private displays in future years.
The national state/church watchdog has over 19,000 members nationwide, including more than 670 in Illinois. The group's Chicago chapter also placed a sign in Niles, Ill., last week depicting the Founding Fathers reverently observing the Bill of Rights in a manger.
"It is our hope that one day government spaces will be free from religious — or irreligious — displays, but until then we will do our best to counter these unlawful displays and remind passersby of 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 today. 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.
FFRF thanks its Chicago chapter members for placing the banner.