Religion "hardens hearts & enslaves minds" declares the Freedom From Religion Foundation on its newly placed Winter Solstice banner challenging a nativity scene on government property near city hall in Prineville, Ore.
FFRF is a national state/church watchdog with over 19,000 members nationwide, including more than 600 in Oregon. Portland was the site of FFRF's annual national convention this year, attended by nearly 900 freethinkers in October.
FFRF has openly opposed the unconstitutional nativity display since 2010 when Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert asked the mayor to move the nativity onto private property.
"There are ample private and church grounds where religious displays may be freely placed. Once the government enters into the religion business, conferring endorsement and preference for one religion over others, it strikes a blow at religious liberty, forcing taxpayers of all faiths and of no religion to support a particular expression of worship," Markert said.
In response to FFRF's appeal, the city voted not to sponsor any further nativities. Now a local resident "leases" city plaza and has erected another crèche. The lessee who puts up the crèche, is allowing FFRF to plant its sign, but FFRF opposes this reservation system because it theoretically grants power to the lessee to deny individuals a "room at the inn."
In a Dec. 5, 2012, letter to the county parks district director and city mayor, FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel contended that "the best policy is for Prineville is to prohibit all displays. If the city desires to open a public forum, it must manage the forum."
The Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, takes place this year on Friday, Dec. 21. 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 local supporter Sarah Fierbaugh for erecting the banner.