The Freedom From Religion Foundation placed its "Nobody died for our sins. Jesus Christ is a myth" banner in a public park in Streator, Ill. yesterday in time for Easter weekend.
FFRF is a national state/church watchdog with over 18,000 members nationwide, including nearly 700 in Illinois.
FFRF's banner placed on behalf of a local resident, counters a religious cross display that has sat on city property since early March. This is the fifth straight year that park-goers and passersby have been told via a prominent sign that "Jesus died for your sins."
City officials granted FFRF permission to erect an eight-foot by three-foot banner in city park near the crosses.
This is not the first time FFRF has had involvement with a religious display in this particular park. In December, FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott wrote a letter to Mayor Jimmie Lansford protesting a nativity scene at the same location. Local complainants took issue with the crèche itself and the blatantly Christian sign next to the display: "Unto you is born the Savior Jesus Christ the Lord."
The manger scene, sign and crosses place the imprimatur of the city government behind the Christian religious doctrine, contends FFRF. "This excludes citizens who are not Christian—Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, etc.—as well as the significant and growing portion of the U.S. population that is not religious at all (15 percent of adults), including complainants and taxpayers in Streator," wrote Elliott.
The city’s attorney has responded that displays would continue to be allowed because the city is treating its city park as a public forum.
“We think the city would be wise to exclude all displays from the park. Our banner is a protest of the city’s continued decision to permit public property to be misappropriated to promote an exclusionary evangelical message,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. "There are tax-free churches on practically every other corner where manger scenes and crosses may be placed. City parks ought to be free of religious divisiveness," she added.
FFRF’s banner will hang until April 13. The banner will rise again next year if the city continues to allow displays in city park.
April 5, 2012 March 5, 2012