To counter a half-century state/church violation in Loudoun, Co. Va., the Freedom From Religion Foundation, with local members, will place a banner proclaiming "There are no gods" in front of the county courthouse on Saturday in Leesburg.
The 6-foot wide colorful mesh banner, with a stained-glass window background, 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."
The organization's name and website, ffrf.org, is at the bottom.
The Madison, Wis.-based Foundation, a state/church watchdog that is the nation's largest national association of atheists and agnostics, got involved at the behest of local membership, after the County reneged on its decision to ban all structures and displays from the courthouse in Leesburg.
The Loudoun Co. Board of Supervisors reversed the decision, and opened up the grounds as a public forum with a limited number of permits.
A large display with the banners of several freethinking groups, including the Foundation's, will go up at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19 at the corner of Market St. (Rt. 7) and King St. (Rt. 15) in downtown Leesburg, facing Market Street, adjacent to the nativity display (which gets the prime corner position.)
A freestanding six by eight foot framework, painted green and decorated with evergreen and red and silver garland, will support four signs. In addition to the Foundation's banner, there will be one from the American Humanists ("No God - No Problem. Just be good for goodness sake") one from Washington Area Secular Humanists and one from a local group reading: "Greetings from your friendly neighborhood atheists and humanists. Solstice is the Reason for the Season. Religion is the business of churches, not government. This is not a church. American Atheists - Freedom From Religion Foundation - American Association Assn. - Washington Area - Beltway Atheists."
The wording on the banner is the same the Foundation used to successfully challenge the placement of a nativity scene inside the Washington State Capitol in Olympia. An outcry greeted the sign and persuaded the State to keep religion—and irreligion—off government property, which was the Foundation's aim.
"We think the County did the right thing, originally, and should adopt a ban on all displays, but if religious displays are going to be up by core government buildings, then dissenting views should be there, too," said Dan Barker, Foundation co-president.
"This sign is a reminder of the real reason for the season, the Winter Solstice," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president. "We nonbelievers don't mind sharing the season with Christians," Gaylor added, "but we think there should be some acknowledgment that the Christians really 'stole' the trimmings of Christmas, and the sun-god myths, from pagans."
The Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, takes place this year on Monday, 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.