The Freedom From Religion Foundation and its Metropolitan Chicago chapter have unveiled their annual secular holiday display in the heart of the city.
A colorful banner invoking the Founding Fathers was recently unfurled in Daley Plaza. It greets everyone with: "Happy Winter Solstice," and pictures Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and the Statue of Liberty gazing adoringly at a "baby" Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was adopted on Dec. 15, 1791.
"At this season of the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the birth of the unconquered sun — the true reason for the season," the banner reads. "As Americans, let us also honor our the birth of Bill of Rights, which reminds us that there can be no freedom OF religion without having freedom FROM religion in government."
The display also includes an 8½-foot-tall lighted "A," which stands for "atheist" or "agnostic" — an emblem conceptualized by scientist Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion."
The FFRF display is designed to dispel misconceptions about atheists and to affirm their presence in the American social landscape.
"Atheists, agnostics, secular humanists and freethinkers are far more numerous than people realize," a sign accompanying the display reminds everyone.
The display will have the additional purpose of countering the overt religiosity that is on show at Daley Plaza (including a huge nativity scene and menorah erected annually) and at pretty much every public square in the United States during the holidays.
"It's important to give revelers a different narrative this festive season," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "We're happy to spread our message in one of the great American urban centers."
FFRF Metropolitan Chicago chapter Director Tom Cara agrees.
"Our objective this time of year is to make sure the nonreligious community is equally represented," he says. "As those who have no religious affiliation now make up nearly one-quarter of the U.S. population, a demographic that continues to grow rapidly, it is important for people to understand there are many different reasons for the season, and that the holidays should be all-inclusive."
Cara and other volunteers with the organization's active Chicago chapter put up the display, and FFRF helped defray the costs.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national freethought association dedicated to keeping state and church separate, with more than 24,000 members, including almost 800 members and its Metropolitan Chicago chapter in Illinois.