Freethought Solstice Sign Returns To State Capitol (December 1997)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, for the second year in a row, placed a seasonal message of freethought at the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin in December. That message went all around North America, following coverage by a national Associated Press story.
The gilt sign 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.”

On the back is affixed a label reading “Thou shalt not steal.”

“Last year we were told our equal-time sign was a tourist attraction,” commented Anne Gaylor, Foundation president, who authored the message on the sign.

“We plan to make this a Winter Solstice tradition.”

Staff was interviewed about the issue on many radio talkshows, including those in: Winnipeg, Toronto, Tampa, Madison, Manhattan, Raleigh, Cincinnati, Harrisburg (PA) and South Dakota as well as Colmes’ United Stations Talk, and National NBC Radio. Dan Barker was featured in a Fox TV news interview broadcast nationally on December 18 about state/church battles in December.

Last year apparently was the first time a freethought message ever appeared on display at a state capitol.

The Foundation placed the sign in 1996 following censorship in 1995 by the Governor’s office of a banner reading “State/Church: Keep Them Separate.” The Catholic Governor ordered the banner ripped down, disregarding a valid permit the Foundation had been given to place the sign near a lighted menorah and huge Christmas tree inside the rotunda.

The Foundation has protested religious observance at the capitol, particularly a “tree-lighting ceremony” hosted by state employees and the Governor’s Office involving ritual singing of sectarian Christian hymns exhorting damnation for nonbelievers and salvation for Christians. The Foundation has also protested an annual live nativity pageant with “angels on the dome” which takes over the entire Capitol building one afternoon a year. The Foundation was successful in the late 1970’s in stopping public funding of this event.

Just as in 1996, the freethought solstice sign erected through the month of December 1997 was soon surrounded by two religious signs. One wordy cardboard sign put up by the Governor’s Office quoted the New Testament and proclaimed in part: “The strength of Wisconsin and her people comes from our deep faith in God.”

Another sign, placed by a right-wing Christian group, promoted Christianity, and was insultingly prefaced: “As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, may truth prevail. ‘For the fool hath said in his heart there is no God.’ “

Freedom From Religion Foundation