The nation's largest association of atheists and agnostics has received permits to display its Winter Solstice message throughout December in the ground floor rotunda of the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, in tandem with the Jackson Skeptical Society, is displaying its gilt sign in the Capitol for the second year in a row, to protest a decision by the state to permit a life-sized nativity display in the rotunda.
The sign will be going up Monday, Dec. 5 around 3 p.m. and stay up throughout the month (except for several hours on Dec. 6, due to the space being reserved for a prior permit).
The Madison, Wis.-based Foundation has 17,000 members nationwide, with members in every state, including Mississippi, and works as a state/church watchdog.
The pretty gilt display contains a secular message which 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.
"We don't think religion, or irreligion, belongs in state capitols," noted Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation Co-President. “But if a state is going to permit a nativity display, then we want to be sure that the views of the 16 percent of the U.S. population that is not religious are also represented."
"This sign is a reminder of the real reason for the season, the Winter Solstice," said Dan Barker, Foundation co-president and author of Godless, about his migration from evangelical minister to atheist.
The Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, takes place this year on Thursday, Dec. 22. 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.
An engraved sign with the same wording has been erected by the Foundation for 16 Decembers in a row at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison.
FFRF thanked Mississippi activists and members for help in coordinating the effort.