For the second year in a row, the sign by the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Metropolitan Chicago chapter was vandalized in a city park in Arlington Heights, Ill. The solstice sign, along with a large "A" (for atheism) light display, was erected to counter a nativity scene on public property in North School Park, in what the city has deemed a public forum.
"It seems there is no peace, good will to all in Arlington Heights," said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. "This is not just a heckler's veto, it's an attack on free speech in a public forum that is supposed to be open to all. This vandalism says the park belongs only to Christians — everyone else is an outsider."
Additionally, the Chicago chapter was part of a Chicago Coalition of Reason banner that was also vandalized over the past weekend.
The five-foot-tall scarlet A was added this year, after a solstice banner was slashed to shreds a year ago. The accompanying metal sign was vandalized. It depicted a small graphic showing the "nativity" of the Bill of Rights, whose anniversary is Dec. 15. Admiring Founding Founders are gathered around the Bill of Rights document in a crib. It also contained a required disclaimer and language explaining the freethought point of view.
Tom Cara, chapter director, noted: "I have contacted the Park District to let them know of the damage and encourage them once again to cease this public forum due to the divisiveness of religious displays on public property."
Cara reported the crime to the police, which is minimally a misdemeanor. Because FFRF's nonreligious message was targeted, the act also qualifies as a Class 4 felony under Illinois' hate crime law. FFRF is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator(s).
The Chicago chapter additionally was part of a Chicago Coalition of Reason banner that was also vandalized over the past weekend.
FFRF and its chapter have also erected a display to counter a more than life-sized nativity display that has dominated Daley Plaza in December for years. FFRF and its chapter have placed an 8-foot lighted red "A" (the emblem of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, standing for atheism and agnostism), and a charming, large banner depicting the "nativity" of the Bill of Rights.
FFRF, a Madison, Wis.-based national state/church watchdog with over 21,500 members nationwide, has over 800 members in Illinois.