FFRF, Chicago chapter counter Catholic Easter display

FFRF placed a patriotic red-white-and-blue secular display to counter an enormous Catholic Easter display at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago in April.

Two colorful 8-foot banners on a 12-foot structure promoting the secular views of founding fathers were placed with the help of the FFRF Metropolitan Chicago chapter and three FFRF staff attorneys — Patrick Elliott, Andrew Seidel and Sam Grover. The trio drove to Chicago from Madison, Wis., to install the display with chapter help on a wooden structure they built for the back-to-back banners.

One banner reads: “In Reason We Trust” and pictured Thomas Jefferson, displaying his famous advice to a nephew, “Question with boldness even the existence of a god.” The other side proclaimed, “Keep State & Religion Separate,” and pictured President John Adams, who signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which assured “. . . the government of the United States is not in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

The  display countered religious displays and evangelism in Daley Plaza by the Catholic Thomas More Society, which has evangelized in the plaza every Easter for several years. The group’s aim, through its “Divine Mercy Project,” is to seek the “conversion of Chicago, America and the Whole World.”

Rather than place such displays on church grounds, the society explicitly seeks to take over public property for its purposes, claiming that at Daley Plaza it encounters “militants, feminists, Satanists, radical Muslims, just about everybody.”

The society placed a 10-foot-tall painting of Jesus that it claims was miraculously inspired, with the statement “Jesus, I trust in you,” as well as a 14-foot cross. In past years, supporters have also held 24-hour prayer vigils, distributed thousands of prayer cards and hosted anti-abortion rallies in front of the Jesus painting.

FFRF additionally had two smaller posters affixed to each side of its display, explaining its purpose, written by Tom Cara, Chicago chapter director: “Not looking to convert? Neither are we,” protesting use of government property to endorse the beliefs of a specific religious group. Another poster questioned the “divine mercy” of the bible, upon which Catholicism is predicated.

FFRF and its Chicago-area chapter in December placed an 8-foot lighted “A” (for atheism and agnosticism) and banner celebrating the “birth of the Bill of Rights” to counter a huge nativity display erected annually for decades.

FFRF thanks Patrick Elliott, who initiated the project, as well as Andrew Seidel and Sam Grover for building the display with Patrick, and Tom Cara and other chapter volunteers for their help in erecting, dismantling and storing the newsmaking displays.

Freedom From Religion Foundation