FFRF Solstice banner stolen from Michigan town


A Freedom From Religion Foundation seasonal banner in Warren, Mich., has been stolen.

The display, which read “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia,” was installed just a few days ago near the intersection of Mound and Chicago roads. A complaint about the theft has been filed with local police.

FFRF, a national state/church watchdog, has created a special fund (donors may choose Resurrection Fund in the designation dropdown at ffrf.org/donate), for when its “equal time” displays on public forums are vandalized or removed.

“This is not just a criminal offense but also a thought crime,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Why is our irreverent and cheerful greeting so threatening to some believers that they have to erase our free speech?”

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 a riff on “Keep Christ in Christmas,” and is meant to remind the public of the real “reason for the season”: the Winter Solstice.

This is not the first time that FFRF has had a display vandalized or stolen in Michigan. Several years ago, FFRF erected a banner in Warren reading, in part, “At this Season of the Winter Solstice, Let Reason Prevail.” That banner was trashed within 48 hours. After a local FFRF member repaired the damage, the banner was stolen. This is the first time the Saturnalia display has been filched since it was moved to its current location near a Christian Nativity scene.

FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert sent a letter to the Macomb County Road Commission back in 2008 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 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 Christian Nativity.

FFRF thanks local members Doug Marshall and Scott Elliott for making these displays possible.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national state/church watchdog with approximately 33,000 nonreligious members all over the country, including more than 700 in Michigan.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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