Freethought Winter Solstice Sign Stolen from Wisconsin Capitol (Jan/Feb 2002)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s traditional “untraditional” Winter Solstice sign that has appeared yearly at the Wisconsin State Capitol since 1996 was stolen sometime between the afternoons of Monday, Dec. 18 and Tuesday, Dec. 19.

The Foundation annually erects a gilt sign during the month of December reading:

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.

This year the Foundation added engraved wording to the back of the sign reading: “State/Church: Keep Them Separate. – Freedom From Religion Foundation,” to deter religionists who in previous years continually turned the sign to the wall.

A thief or thieves removed the two engraved inserts in the sign, which was located on the first-floor rotunda. Various religious items at the Capitol were unmolested.

“Given the heightened security at the Capitol, we are at a loss to explain this security lapse,” said Foundation president Anne Gaylor.

The engraved plaques were valued at several hundred dollars.

The Foundation began erecting the sign in response to various religious displays and state/church entanglements at the State Capitol. One of the Foundation’s first victories when it formed in the late 1970s was to halt public funding of an annual live nativity display at the State Capitol. The pageant continues with private funding, taking over the Capitol for one afternoon a year. When the annual state tree is lit, the governor and employees sponsor a “tree-lighting ceremony” featuring religious Christmas hymns. Then the state began permitting a lighted menorah.

In the 1990s the Foundation originally had erected a red-white-and-blue banner reading “State/Church: Keep Them Separate.” Then-Gov. Tommy Thompson ordered the Foundation message ripped down in 1995, although the Foundation had a legal permit to hang it. His office issued guidelines permitting smaller signs to be erected.

The Foundation announced a reward of $500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the religious thief or thieves. No information was forthcoming.

The Foundation will continue erecting its unique Winter Solstice display, promised Gaylor.

Freedom From Religion Foundation