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"Winter Solstice" Message Goes Up at Wisconsin Capitol

A Different Kind of December Tradition

A winter solstice message from the Freedom From Religion Foundation was erected today at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, for the fifth year in a row.

The Madison-based Foundation, a national watchdog group for state/church separation, obtained a permit to erect the gilt display for the month of December.

The secular message reads:


"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."

Affixed to the back of the sign is a message reminding any would-be detractors: "Thou shalt not steal."

Since in past years individuals continually turned the Foundation sign around so it could not be read, the Foundation placed two of the its colorful bumperstickers on the back, reading: "Love Thy First Amendment," and "State/Church: Keep Them Separate."

The sign can be found in the first (not ground) floor of the newly-restored rotunda of the State Capitol. Capitol guides have told reporters that the Foundation's annual sign has become a "tourist attraction."

The Foundation first erected the winter solstice sign in 1996, after Gov. Tommy Thompson removed a Foundation banner from the rotunda reading "State/Church: Keep Them Separate" which the Foundation had obtained a permit to post. The banner had been placed by the Foundation following complaints by the public about use of the Capitol for an annual nativity pageant and other violations. An ultra-orthodox Jewish group also erects a lighted menorah at Hanukkah next to the state's official holiday tree. The Governor's office has since restricted the Foundation's display to a sign which is 30 x 40 inches.

"The Wisconsin State Capitol belongs to all Wisconsin citizens, not just religionists, even in December. We think it is important to start a tradition of representing freethought at the Capitol," said Foundation president Anne Gaylor.

The freethought sign is believed to be the only such display in a state capitol.

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