FFRF’s ‘Saturnalia’ banner goes up in Warren, Mich.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation returns to Macomb County (Warren, Mich.) this holiday season — this time with a tongue-in-cheek banner proclaiming, “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia.”
With the help of local members Scott Elliott and his mother, FFRF applied for a permit to place a banner near the nativity at Mound Road (just south of Chicago Road) in Warren, Mich.

Saturnalia, held by the Roman Empire, was one of the most famous of the Winter Solstice festivities, which many Christmas traditions are based on. The slogan is meant to be a riff on “Keep Christ in Christmas,” and to remind the public of the real “reason for the season,” the Winter Solstice.

FFRF is a national state/church watchdog with more than 23,000 members, including more than 600 in Michigan.

“I would prefer no holiday displays were put up on this government property each year, but as long as it is an open forum, I want our point of view to be represented,” Elliott said.
FFRF has been involved with this particular nativity scene in one way or another for the past seven years. In 2008, FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent a letter to the Macomb County Road Commission requesting an investigation into the placement and permit of the nearly 10 foot-tall crèche.

When the commission determined John Satawa never received a proper permit to install the nativity display in the median of a highway, they ordered him to remove it. After being denied a permit in 2009, Satawa sued the commission, alleging violations of the Establishment Clause and his right to free speech. Although Satawa lost at the lower court level, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said any individual or organization can apply for a permit to put up a display (pursuant to Macomb County Road Commission policy).

“It is our hope that one day government spaces will be free from religious — or irreligious — displays,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.


The Freedom From Religion Foundation began countering a nativity scene in Macomb County (Warren, Mich.) in 2012. FFRF member Scott Elliott and his wife Kristina Delgado stand behind (both figuratively and literally!) FFRF’s “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia” banner in Warren, Mich., recently. 

“At FFRF, we truly think neither religion — or irreligion — belongs on public property. So we consider this a victory!” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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