Vol. 20 No. 1 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
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Winter Solstice Sign Defaced in State Capitol
The Freedom From Religion Foundation's gilt "Winter Solstice" sign, traditionally placed during the month of December at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, lasted only one week before being defaced on Dec. 15.
It apparently was sprayed with some type of corrosive substance.
Anne Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation announced a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for defacing the freethought message. No one has come forward with information to date.
The sign, which was marred but legible, remained at the Capitol through Dec. 31. It 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."
The back of the sign reads: "State/Church: Keep Them Separate," and carries a little taped-on caveat, advising believers "Thou shalt not steal."
BeforeThe undefaced sign had a friendly spot by a bust of freethinker and Progressive Robert La Follette.
AfterFront and back views of the defaced solstice sign.
The Foundation had asked the Capitol police for special attention in protecting the sign, for which the Foundation has a permit. Last year, the inserts were stolen and never recovered. The Capitol police have surveillance at all exits.
"It seems to be a reflection of a change for the worse in our society--increased intolerance and right-wing aggression," commented Gaylor. "Our small token Winter Solstice sign was not tampered with for the first five years we erected it, then was stolen in 2001, and mutilated this past season.
"There was a week-long 'interfaith' display dominating the rotunda, there was the annual nativity pageant with angels everywhere taking over the Capitol for most of one weekend, daily Christmas hymn-singing, and the government-sponsored 'tree lighting ceremony' with Christian overtones," she pointed out.
"A menorah with godly text by it is placed every year. A right-wing group puts a cheap-looking poster up at the Capitol, that has never been vandalized, calling all atheists fools and promoting 'our Lord Jesus Christ.'
"There ought to be room at the State Capitol for the views of atheists and agnostics, too.
"Although we do not believe religion or irreligion should be represented at the seat of state government, as long as religion is promoted there in December, our sign will be there, too," Gaylor added.
January/February 2003 Excerpts