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FFRF solstice banner missing in Michigan

A thief or thieves in Warren, Mich., stole the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Winter Solstice banner several days after it was put in place to counter a religious nativity scene on public property. It was vandalized on Dec. 16, the day after it was put up, when one of the steel fence posts it was attached to was removed. It disappeared on Solstice Eve.

The 7½-by-3 foot banner in the public median on Mound Road 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.”

FFRF member Douglas Marshall had gotten a permit for it from the Macomb County Department of Roads.

The Foundation is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the responsible party or parties, said Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

" 'Thou shalt not steal' is one of the tenets that people who typically oppose FFRF supposedly live by," Gaylor said. "I guess it's all part of the war on reason."

The banner is valued at more than $100. The Foundation is replacing it with another.

Gaylor expressed appreciation to Marshall and other FFRF supporters in the area for their work, particularly the extra work brought about due to the vandalism and thievery. Marshall filed an official report with the police. Those with any leads on the crime should contact FFRF directly.

%914 %America/Chicago, %2012

Vandal attacks Wilkes-Barre solstice sign

WilkesbarrevandalismA man yesterday about 4 p.m. brazenly climbed a structure to cut the cord attaching the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Winter Solstice banner in Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The city, which requires that its workers must place displays, had just put the banner up Wednesday. FFRF paid a $50 fee and had a permit.

A film crew with WNEP 16, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre caught the crime, committed by a young man who identified himself as Joe McDonald, who climbed about 30 feet up the sculpture, cut two wires holding one side of the banner, and placed an American flag. View the news story here

FFRF placed the sign in response to a very large menorah and prominent religious banner planted in Public Square. FFRF student member Justin Vacula had notified FFRF about the religious displays, and oversaw placement of the banner.

“No messages, religious or irreligious, should be placed in Public Square,” Justin told WNEP. But while religious displays are there, “we’re going to put up irreligious messages in protest.”

The city apparently made the decision about where to place the banner. (McDonald claimed he only tampered with the banner because it was “higher” than the other displays.) At this point, the city has not rehung the banner, which is dangling. Nor have police announced that they have ticketed, arrested or talked with the culprit. He excused his actions “in light of the elementary school massacre in Connecticut.”

“We are staggered by the brazen action of this young man. We have a permit and he has violated the law and our free speech rights. We expect the city to expeditiously rehang our banner and police to investigate and take appropriate action to enforce the law,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president.

FFRF thanks Justin for all his help, including filing a police report concerning the vandalism. FFRF was told both by city and police officials today that the people in charge were not available and no one else could help FFRF.

The City Council in Cheboygan, Mich., moved a nativity display off public property rather than give the Freedom From Religion Foundation equal time during the winter holiday season.

“We couldn't be more pleased,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “We think religion — or irreligion — is divisive on public-owned property. If religious displays are allowed, ours should be allowed as well. But this resolution is a victory for the Establishment Clause.”

Instead of letting FFRF's "Let Reason Prevail" banner be displayed in a public park with the Kiwanis Club's religious nativity scene, the council voted Dec. 18 to ban all displays in Washington Park — except for secular displays by the Chamber of Commerce and the Opera House.

City Attorney Stephen Lindsay warned the council about denying FFRF’s request and facing litigation which “the city cannot win.”

City officials had either ignored or lodged spurious objections to FFRF's banner request starting in early December. The Kiwanis Club had put up the Christian display for 51 years.

Lindsay wrote FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert on Dec. 19 that the council voted to suspend all private displays on city property and will appoint a committee to develop regulations and policies for displays.

The Cheboygan Tribune reported that Kiwanians moved the crèche the next day to the Citizens National Bank parking lot.

National Bank CEO Sue Eno said it was an easy choice to give the space to the Kiwanis Club.

“The move here makes so much sense," bank CEO Sue Eno told the newspaper. "We just don’t need the controversy in the city.”

The potential controversy could have come about if council would have allowed the erection of the FFRF banner or if it denied the request. If a denial was the route taken, the group more than likely would have sued the city on the basis of separation of church and state as it has done in Warren, Mich.

“I respect council for doing what they did. That group (FFRF) is entitled to their beliefs as well,” Eno said. “However, we have a great location here, a more convenient location.”

FFRF is very appreciative of local supporters who followed the issue and spoke up for state-church separation, said Gaylor.

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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.

%974 %America/Chicago, %2012

FFRF solstice banner up in Wilkes-Barre

WilkesbarreBanner1

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, with the help of a Pennsylvania member, has placed its Winter Solstice banner in Wilkes-Barre's Public Square to counter religious displays set up there.

The 7½-by-3 foot 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.”

The Madison, Wis.-based national state/church watchdog has over 19,000 members nationwide with more than 670 in Pennsylvania. FFRF has two ongoing federal lawsuits in Pennsylvania over Ten Commandments in front of public schools.

wilkes barre1The banner, which was attached by city of Wilkes-Barre employees to a display structure, joins "The Seven Universal Laws For a Better World" (No. 1: Believe in G-d) and an ad for a religious event attached to a looming menorah.

"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.

"Christians don't own the month of December,” added Co-President Dan Barker.

FFRF thanks local supporter Justin Vacula for his great help and initiative in getting the banner placed. Justin, a student, received a $250 honorable mention award from FFRF for his graduate student essay this year.

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Foundation protests Christmas displays

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

 

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FFRF is a member of Atheist Alliance International.