Tis the season . . . to bring some freethinking cheer to Olympia!
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog and the nation's largest association of atheists and agnostics, is making its mark on Olympia in December.
In addition to erecting a jaunty "Reason's Greetings" billboard in downtown Olympia on East 5th Avenue (cross street Jefferson), the Foundation and its membership have a permit to display a Winter Solstice sign in the Washington State Capitol for the month of December. Members of the Foundation will assemble at 10 a.m. on Monday, December 1, on the third floor (near the George Washington bust) to dedicate the sign.
Foundation co-president Dan Barker, author of the new book, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists, will be there for the dedication.
The engraved sign will read:
"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 sign bears the Freedom From Religion Foundation name and states that it is placed on behalf of Washington State Foundation members, who number close to 700.
The back of the sign reads: "State/Church: Keep Them Separate."
"Our sign is a reminder of the real reason for the season, the Winter Solstice," says Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president.
The Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, takes place on Dec. 21. This natural holiday signals the return of the sun and the new year, and has been celebrated for a millennia in the Northern Hemisphere with festivals of light, evergreens, feasts and gift exchanges.
"The Christians really stole 'Christmas,' but we nonbelievers are willing to share it with them!" Gaylor adds.
The sign is a response to the state's decision to capitulate to a religious-right group which sued the state to display a nativity scene, which was placed last December and will reappear this December on the third floor. Gaylor said she believed the state should not have settled the case, saying that a nativity scene does not belong in a core government building. But since the privately-owned creche will be on display, the Foundation wants to be sure nonreligious views are represented in the State Capitol as well.
Foundation Lifetime Member Lois Walker, 80, in nearby Shelton, had specifically requested the Foundation place an "equal time" display. "We're sorry Lois, who died on Nov. 6, didn't live to see the display, but are glad she knew it would be going up as scheduled," Gaylor said.
"Christians don't own the month of December," Barker added.
The Olympia sign is similar to one that has been placed in the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda. This December will mark its 13th year of display in Madison, Wis.
The Foundation has put up freethinking billboards in 11 states, and placed a sign with a stained-glass motif in Seattle, saying "Imagine No Religion," in June. That sign was sponsored by a local member. One of the Foundation's "Imagine No Religion" billboards was torn down on Nov. 21 in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., just a week after it was placed with a 2-month contract. The Foundation filed a federal lawsuit against city officials there on Nov. 26 for actions which prompted the removal and which violate the free speech clause and establishment clause of the First Amendment.
The Foundation has a goal to erect billboards in every state and every capital that permits billboards. It has also just placed a "Reason's Greetings" billboard in Madison, Wis., where it is based.