The Freedom From Religion Foundation's Winter Solstice sign has just returned to the Illinois State Capitol for its seventh display.
FFRF, the largest national association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics), with 23,000 members nationwide, has more than 700 members in the state of Illinois. FFRF works to protect the constitutional separation between religion and government. Back in 2008, Illinois members asked FFRF to erect an equal-time display, in protest of a decision to permit a religious group to plant a nativity in the Capitol during December.
"We don't think religion—or irreligion—belongs in state capitols," noted Dan Barker, FFRF co-president and author of the new book, Life-Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning. "But if a state is going to permit a nativity display and create a public forum, then we want to be sure that the views of the 23% of the U.S. population that is not religious are also represented."
The pretty green and red sign contains a secular message, composed by the late Anne Nicol Gaylor, FFRF's principal founder:
"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."
"This sign is a reminder of the real reason for the season, the Winter Solstice," says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, which is the shortest and darkest day of the year, and takes place on Dec. 22 this year. The natural holiday heralds the rebirth of the sun and the natural new year, and has been celebrated for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere with festivals of light, evergreens, feasts and gift exchanges.
"We nonbelievers don't mind sharing the season with Christians," Gaylor adds, "we just don't like the pretense that it's about a supernatural birth of a god."
An engraved sign with the same wording has been erected by the Foundation for 20 Decembers in a row at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis.
To combat crèches in other state capitols, FFRF, with the help of members, will also be placing a metal cut-out depicting a Bill of Rights "nativity" in the rotundas of the Florida and Texas Capitols.