The Freedom From Religion Foundation's local chapter has placed a secular display in downtown Chicago for the fourth Easter in a row to counter a Catholic shrine there.
On Thursday, FFRF's Metropolitan Chicago chapter put up in Daley Plaza two colorful 8-foot banners on a 12-foot structure promoting the secular views of the Founding Fathers. The display will be on public view till Saturday, April 22.
One banner reads, "In Reason We Trust," and pictures Thomas Jefferson, highlighting his famous advice to a nephew: "Question with boldness even the existence of a god." The other side proclaims, "Keep State & Religion Separate," and pictures President John Adams, who signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which assured ". . . the government of the United States is not in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."
The FFRF display is designed to balance a period of prayer and evangelism in Daley Plaza by a Catholic group, the Thomas More Society, that has preached in the plaza every Easter since 2011. The group's aim, through its "Divine Mercy Project," is to seek the "conversion of Chicago, America and the whole world."
The Thomas More Society's Catholic shrine, including a large wooden Latin cross, a 9-foot banner of Jesus, and "kneelers" for people to pray, also went up on Thursday. Worship services will reportedly be held on the Plaza for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In past years, Catholic supporters have also held 24-hour prayer vigils, distributed thousands of prayer cards and hosted anti-abortion rallies in front of the Jesus painting.
Rather than place such displays on church grounds, the Thomas More Society explicitly seeks to take over public property for its purposes, claiming that at Daley Plaza it encounters "militants, feminists, Satanists, radical Muslims, just about everybody."
FFRF and its local chapter additionally have two smaller posters affixed to each side of its display, explaining its purpose, written by Tom Cara, the Chicago chapter director. "Not looking to convert? Neither are we," protests the use of government property to endorse the beliefs of a specific religious group. The other poster questions the "divine mercy" of the bible upon which Catholicism is predicated.
FFRF and its chapter designed the large display, with help from FFRF Staff Attorneys Patrick Elliott, Andrew Seidel and Sam Grover. Cara and other volunteers with the organization's active Chicago chapter put it up.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national state/church watchdog with more than 27,000 nonreligious members and chapters all over the country, including almost 900 and the Metropolitan Chicago chapter in Illinois.