Come the new year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is proudly raising its unique flag to honor freethought and to protest a New Hampshire town’s Ten Commandments monument.
On Tuesday, Jan. 2, FFRF and local member Richard Gagnon are hoisting an “A” flag in Somersworth, N.H. The flag will be up in the “Citizen’s Place” traffic island through the end of the month. The red “A” was adopted by Richard Dawkins as a symbol of atheism and agnosticism.
Earlier this year, the city installed two flagpoles near a contentious Ten Commandments monument for community groups to celebrate events. The addition of something other than a Judeo-Christian symbol is an attempted gesture by the city to get around legal precedent against stand-alone Ten Commandments markers on public property.
“The 3,000-pound monolith was knocked down in August 2016, setting off a new round of discussions as to whether or not the religious symbol violates the constitutional provision of separation of church and state,” the local paper reports “In determining whether the Ten Commandments monument should be restored, Mayor Dana Hilliard offered a plan to create a citizen’s park, adding two flagpoles which could be used by civic groups to celebrate important events.”
FFRF’s flag was initially meant to go up on Dec. 4. But due to an anticipated backlash to a December display, Hilliard suggested a postponement, and FFRF Member Richard Gagnon agreed to the move. Hilliard has said that he intends to declare January as tolerance month.
The feature left out key details about the controversy. For instance, FFRF has asked for several years that the Ten Commandments monument be removed but to no avail yet In the meantime, the state/church separation group hopes the flag, albeit temporary, will provide some balance to Somersworth’s blatantly Christian endorsement.
“The town could have easily avoided the whole commotion,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “But since they insist on paying fealty to a religious monument, we have to present an alternative perspective, too. We hope ultimately the town will decide to do the right things and move the decalog off public land.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with approximately 30,000 nonreligious members across the country, including in New Hampshire. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.