The Freedom From Religion Foundation and its Metropolitan Chicago chapter have put on display their annual secular solstice exhibits at a number of locations in the Chicago area.
A colorful banner invoking the Founding Fathers was recently unfurled in downtown Daley Plaza in the heart of America's renowned megalopolis. 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 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." This is the fourth year in a row the chapter has put up the displays.
The FFRF exhibit 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. Polls now number nonreligious Americans at approximately one-fourth of the country's population.
The exhibits have the additional purpose of countering the overt religiosity that is regularly on show at Daley Plaza and at pretty much every public square in the United States during December, including an oversized Christian nativity tableau at Daley Plaza that the Thomas More Society has created since 1984.
FFRF and its Chicago chapter have also installed a freethought display at North School Park in Arlington Heights, Ill. They have been putting together a nontheist exhibit each year since 2012 in the public forum area of the park to counter a privately erected crèche by the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee. In the past, the FFRF chapter has placed FFRF's "Let Reason Prevail" banner, and, more recently, the lighted Dawkins Scarlet "A" sign there. This is the first year the Bill of Rights "nativity" cutout has been on show in the Chicago suburb.
"It's great to see our message flying high in America's Windy City," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "We'd prefer to keep religion — and irreligion — off of government property. But if religion displays are invited, there has to be room at the inn for the nonreligious perspective."
FFRF Metropolitan Chicago chapter Director Tom Cara and other volunteers with the organization's active Chicago chapter put up the displays, and FFRF helped defray display costs.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national freethought association dedicated to keeping state and church separate, with roughly 30,000 nonreligious members and 20 chapters all over the country, including almost 1,000 members and the Metropolitan Chicago chapter in Illinois.