FFRF thwarts religious promotion in Wisconsin city


The Freedom From Religion Foundation has ensured that a Wisconsin city park sends a secularly welcoming message to all its citizens.

A concerned local resident of Reedsburg, Wis., informed FFRF that a “free pantry” with religious imagery and wording had been placed in a public park. The front glass pane on the pantry included a prominent Christian cross and a message that read:

“Blessing Box

While FFRF expressed its support for placing a free food pantry in the city park, it informed the city that it cannot use it to promote a particular religion — or religion in general. The Latin cross along with the phrases “blessing box” and “be blessed” promoted Christianity on behalf of the city and created the appearance that the food was donated entirely by Christian churches.

To avoid the impression of endorsing religion, FFRF asked that the city remove the cross, the name “Blessing Box” and the phrase “ABOVE ALL BE BLESSED.”

“Displaying a message telling residents to ‘be blessed,’ along with Latin crosses, fails to respect either constitutional mandate of neutrality,” FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne wrote to Reedsburg Mayor David Estes. “It endorses religion over nonreligion and Christianity over all other faiths.”

FFRF noted that the free pantry’s message conveyed to non-Christians in Reedsburg that they are outsiders in their own community, hindering donations. FFRF requested that the cross and religious phrases be removed from the park’s free pantry.

A legal representative of the city informed FFRF last week, with photo evidence, that the religious iconography and wording has been removed from the free pantry box.

“The wording is instructional and non-sectarian,” writes Assistant City Attorney Joseph Hasler. FFRF is applauding the city for doing the right thing.

“By removing the divisive religious message, the city has encouraged volunteer participation to right hunger,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Wisconsin-based national nonprofit organization with more than 29,000 members across the country, including 1,200-plus members in Wisconsin. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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