The Freedom From Religion Foundation and its Metropolitan Chicago chapter are unveiling a unique “winter solstice” display Tuesday morning to balance Daley Plaza’s traditional and divisive, life-sized nativity display.
The national state/church watchdog, based in Madison, Wis., and its area chapter, are placing an impressive 8 ½ foot tall, lighted “A,” standing for “atheist,” “agnostic” — an emblem by scientist Richard Dawkins, author of the blockbuster The God Delusion.
Beside it is a colorful, irreverent banner depicting a different kind of nativity scene: the birth of the Bill of Rights. Standing or kneeling in adoration are constitutional framers Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, plus the Statue of Liberty. A copy of the Bill of Rights, which was adopted on Dec. 15, 1791, is in a manger.
The message on the banner reads:
“At this season of the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the birth of the Unconquered Sun — the TRUE reason for the season. As Americans, let us also honor the birth of our Bill of Rights, which reminds us there can be no freedom OF religion, without having freedom FROM religion in government.”
“If the government is going to open up a public forum to religion, then it has to permit the nonreligious — nearly 20% of our nation today — to express our point of view as well,” commented FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.
“The real reason for the season is the Winter Solstice, the darkest, shortest day of the year, a time for celebration for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere because it signified the rebirth of the sun,” added Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF Co-President. “For a fact, the Christians stole Christmas. We don’t mind sharing the season with them, but we don’t like their pretense that it is the birthday of Jesus.”
A life-sized nativity scene was first placed in Daley Plaza, at Dearborn and Washington Streets in downtown Chicago, in 1985 by the so-called “God Squad,” local tradesmen who erect the staff and install lighting. Priests and clergy traditionally bless the crèche. Creating divisiveness, it was litigated by the ACLU, and in 1989 a federal judge ruled Daley Plaza a public forum.
FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor will be at Daley Plaza at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26, along with FFRF Metropolitan Chicago Chapter Director Tom Cara as chapter volunteers erect the unique display. The freethought display is going up at the opening of the 18th annual Christkindlmarket in Chicago. Look for the display, which has a permit til the end of the month, along Dearborn Street near the menorah and crèche displays.
FFRF has nearly 20,000 members, including almost 800 in Illinois.