The Freedom From Religion Foundation is unfurling the banner of freethought in a New Hampshire community for the second year in a row.
Today, Jan. 2, FFRF and local member Richard Gagnon are hoisting an “A” flag in Somersworth, N.H., to honor nonbelief. The flag will be up in the “Citizens Place” traffic island till Friday, Jan. 11. The red “A” was adopted by Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion,” as a symbol of atheism and agnosticism.
In 2017, the city installed two flagpoles near a contentious Ten Commandments monument for community groups to commemorate special occasions.
“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 reported then. “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 inaugural unfurling of the flag last year attracted media attention.
National Public Radio aired a feature on the flag.
And an article in the local paper stated, “The atheist flag is flying over Citizens Place in the city of Somersworth, as the Hilltop city honors diversity during the month of January.”
The Somersworth mayor, who was present at the flag-raising ceremony, waxed eloquent on the occasion.
“Today in the smallest city in New Hampshire, Dr. King’s dream is reinforced by Richard Gagnon going to the flagpole and having his chance,” Hilliard said. “Somersworth will once again prove to New Hampshire and the nation that we stand by our Hilltopper values of honoring each other. Let us in this month continue to reflect on Dr. King’s words, and his dream of understanding and equality for all,”
The display of nonbelief on a town flagpole for the entire month of January passed off without incident.
“It was the first time we were making a statement, and it was not vandalized,” says Gagnon.
Incidentally, New Hampshire is the least religious state in the country, according to a 2015 Gallup survey.
“It is important that the views of nonreligious citizens be represented,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “As long as city officials are unconstitutionally stubborn about using public property to promote religion, we insist on having our say, too.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with approximately 32,000 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.