Click images to enlarge
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has taken its message that God and government are a “dangerous mix” to the heart of U.S. government, via bold bus signs and metro dioramas, appearing now around the city for the next month.
FFRF, a state/church watchdog that also serves as the largest atheist/agnostic association in the United States with more than 16,500 members, timed its secular signs to be up during the National Day of Prayer on May 5. FFRF has launched several legal challenges of the Congressionally-enacted law dating to 1952 which requires the president to issue a prayer proclamation on the first Thursday of every May exhorting citizens to “turn to God.”
FFRF is fighting back with reminders that the United States is based on a secular and godless constitution. Twenty “king” sized exterior advertisements quote John F. Kennedy’s sweeping secular endorsement, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” made to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960.
Twenty other “king” ads feature a red-white-and-blue injunction: “God & Government — A Dangerous Mix: Keep State & Church separate.” The tail of 40 buses bear the image of President Abraham Lincoln on a penny depicting the words “In Reason We Trust” instead of “In God We Trust.”
Passengers will be treated to four different secular slogans in the prominent interior advertisement behind the driver’s seat in 100 buses. Joining ads espousing secular government quoting Kennedy and depicting Lincoln is an interior ad bearing the image of Thomas Jefferson and his well-known advice to his nephew, Peter Carr in 1878: “Question with boldness even the existence of a God.”
A fourth interior ad bears the photograph and message of the late actress Butterfly McQueen (“Prissy” in “Gone with the Wind”), a Lifetime Member of FFRF who told the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 1989: “As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion.”
FFRF Co-President Dan Barker noted that Butterfly McQueen, who had bristled at being relegated to playing maids in the era of segregation, was manhandled by two guards at a Greyhound bus terminal in Washington, D.C., in 1980, sued for assault and received a settlement. “We are taking great pleasure in putting the image and wise words of Butterfly McQueen in the front of buses in metro Washington in her honor.”
In a multi-mass media campaign, FFRF is also posting dioramas, one each of McQueen, JFK, Jefferson and Lincoln’s altered penny on dioramas inside metro stations at Eastern Market, U Street – Cordozo, Judiciary Square and Waterfront.
Last April, a district judge ruled in favor of FFRF’s historic challenge of the National Day of Prayer law and proclamations, FFRF v. Obama. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb declared that the “government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.” She ruled that the government could no more declare a day of prayer than encourage “citizens to fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves I a sweat lodge or practice rune magic.”
Obama appealed the ruling to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which earlier this month declared that FFRF and its six member plaintiffs did not have legal standing to sue over the law. FFRF is seeking an en banc review by the entire appeals court.
FFRF and Arizona plaintiffs have also recently gone to federal court seeking an injunction against Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer from issuing her annual Arizona Day of Prayer proclamation, in conjunction with the National Day of Prayer. FFRF is also challenging the National Day of Prayer proclamations by the Colorado governor in state court.
“The First Amendment says, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.’ The National Day of Prayer is such a law. Case closed,” adds Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
FFRF launched a national billboard campaign in late 2007, and added irreverent bus signs in 2009. It currently has a dozen “Out of the Closet” billboards in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina featuring local FFRF members and their own words about why they reject religion. Later today, FFRF is announcing a "very cool new interactive 'Out of the Closet' campaign," staff said.