FFRF’s ‘Saturnalia’ banner returns to Warren, Mich.

Warren MI

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is giving Solstice greetings yet again in a Michigan town.

With the help of local members (ably organized by Scott Elliott), FFRF has once more placed a tongue-in-cheek banner proclaiming “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia” near the intersection of Mound and Chicago roads in the city of Warren in Macomb County.

Saturnalia, observed during the time of the Roman Empire, was one of the largest of the Winter Solstice festivities, and many Christmas traditions are based on it. The slogan on FFRF’s banner 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.

In 2008, FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert sent a letter to the Macomb County Road Commission requesting an investigation into the placement and permit of a nearly 10-foot-tall crèche at the site where the FFRF banner is now displayed. The commission determined that the person who installed the Nativity scene in the median of a highway had never received a proper permit and ordered him to remove it.

After a lengthy court battle, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said any individual or organization could apply for a permit to put up a display. That’s when FFRF arranged for a banner to be put up alongside the Nativity scene.

“If there’s going to be a public forum including religion, then there has to be room at the inn for a freethought perspective,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Another display FFRF has helped organize in the city of Warren is available for public viewing, too.

This was also allowed as a result of a court battle. In December 2011, FFRF and member Douglas Marshall sued the city of Warren for refusing to allow FFRF to place a Winter Solstice sign alongside a religious Nativity scene in the atrium of the City Hall. While the 2011 lawsuit was dismissed, a subsequent suit filed in 2014 on Marshall’s behalf by FFRF, the ACLU of Michigan and Americans United was successful.

The Reason Station, staffed by Marshall and other volunteers, will offer information and opportunities for discussion from a nonreligious perspective. It will operate between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. (Due to the holidays, the station will not be open Dec. 24-26 and Dec. 31.)

The centerpiece is fittingly a “May Reason Prevail” sign, which has a statement by FFRF’s principal founder Anne Nicol Gaylor. The sign reads:

At this season of the Winter Solstice
may reason prevail.
There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.
There is only our natural world.
Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national state/church watchdog with approximately 30,000 nonreligious members all over the country, including more than 700 in Michigan.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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