The Freedom From Religion Foundation's Winter Solstice "no gods" display starts its 21st annual run at the Wisconsin Capitol today.
A sign at the exhibit features FFRF's traditional message by its principal founder Anne Nicol Gaylor. It was composed as an equal-time challenge to combat religious dogmatism at the heart of state government.
The sign 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.
Joining the gilt display in the rotunda for a second year is FFRF's whimsical Bill of Rights "nativity." The irreverent graphic by artist Jacob Fortin depicts Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington kneeling in adoration before a "baby" Bill of Rights in a manger.
A sign beside the tongue-in-cheek nativity reads:
"Happy Winter Solstice. At this Season of the Winter Solstice, we honor reason and the Bill of Rights (adopted Dec. 15, 1791)." At the bottom it reads: "Thou shalt not steal, please."
Both displays are permitted to be up for the entire month of December.
"In celebrating the solstice, the real reason for the season, we celebrate reality," says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. Occurring on Dec. 21, the Winter Solstice marks the shortest, darkest day of the year, heralding the symbolic rebirth of the sun. It has been celebrated for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere with festivals of light, evergreens, gift exchanges and seasonal gatherings.
"We'd much prefer that our seat of government be free from religion — and irreligion," Barker adds. "The rotunda is getting very cluttered. But if a devotional nativity display is allowed, there must be 'room at the inn' for all points of view, including irreverence and freethought."
The national state/church watchdog, based in Madison, Wis., has more than 24,500 members, including 1,300-plus in Wisconsin.