Celebrating the solstice season
The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s annual Winter Solstice and Bill of Rights exhibits were displayed in December from coast to coast.
The signs, cutouts, banners and billboards were placed in at least 13 states throughout the holiday season, from California to New Hampshire.
The Winter Solstice sign features FFRF’s traditional message by its principal founder Anne Nicol Gaylor. It was created as an equal-time challenge to combat religious dogmatism at the heart of state government and 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 Winter Solstice, which occurred on Dec. 21, is the shortest, darkest day of the year, signaling the rebirth of the sun and the natural new year. It’s been celebrated for millennia with festivals of light, feasts, gift exchanges and the display of evergreens, which symbolize enduring life, and, FFRF maintains, is the true “reason for the season.”
FFRF’s whimsical Bill of Rights “nativity” is an irreverent cutout by artist Jacob Fortin that depicts Founders Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington gazing in adoration at a “baby” Bill of Rights, while the Statue of Liberty looks on.
A sign beside the wry nativity scene reads: “At this season of the Winter Solstice, join us in honoring the Bill of Rights, adopted on Dec. 15, 1791, which reminds us there can be no religious freedom without the freedom to dissent. Keep religion and government separate!
Here’s a roundup of those displays by state:
Sacramento: The Bill of Rights display was put up by the Greater Sacramento chapter of FFRF outside the state Capitol.
San Diego: Katie D., a San Diego freethinker who has asked to be identified without her full last name, put up two Solstice displays to counter the religious messages placed on public property in Balboa Park. The first was the Winter Solstice banner and the other was the Bill of Rights display. The two were triumphantly displayed after Katie D. and FFRF faced challenges getting the application approved by the city, despite the large existing religious nativity scene which has been put up for many years.
Shelton: FFRF’s Winter Solstice banner was put up by Jerry Bloom in Huntington Park.
Atlanta: Two digital billboards were displayed with secular holiday messages reading: “At the Season of the Winter Solstice, May Reason Prevail.” These two billboards functioned as part of a year-long media campaign in the South’s most bustling metropolis, underwritten by Georgia FFRF Member Jack Egger.
Arlington Heights: The Bill of Rights display was also displayed at North School Park, its seventh year there, thanks to FFRF’s Metropolitan Chicago chapter.
Chicago: A colorful banner invoking the Founding Fathers was again unfurled in Daley Plaza by the Metropolitan Chicago chapter. Sitting atop the banner stand was a large lighted Richard Dawkins-inspired “A” (for atheism) sign. This is the sixth year of the display, intended to counter a life-sized Christian creche and a massive Jewish menorah placed at the location by private organizations since the 1980s.
Libertyville: The Metropolitan Chicago chapter also placed the Bill of Rights cutout at Cook Memorial Park, the first year that a freethought exhibit has been displayed at this site. A life-sized Christian creche and an 8-foot tall menorah have been placed in the park for several years.
Morris: The Bill of Rights display was placed on the ground of the Grundy County Courthouse by FFRF Member Will Meyer.
Springfield: The Winter Solstice sign was displayed at the Illinois state Capitol building for the 10th straight year. It was installed by FFRF Member Kathryn Koldehoff.
South Bend: FFRF Member Geoff Snyder brought FFRF’s Bill of Rights cutout back to the County-City Building. Snyder first placed the exhibit in the lobby of the County-City Building in the winter of 2015 after St. Joseph County allowed a Christian nativity scene to be prominently showed off there.
Des Moines: The Bill of Rights cutout was put up in the state Capitol for the second straight year.
Concord: FFRF Member Jack Shields debuted FFRF’s Bill of Rights cutout display in New Hampshire’s capital in December. The display was set up outside the Capitol building.
Hastings-on-Hudson: The Freethinkers of Hastings-on-Hudson put up FFRF’s “Reason’s Greetings” banner in VFW Park. Next to it, the group has also displayed its own sign depicting Rodin’s “The Thinker” in contemplation of the village’s water tower. It is the fifth year in a row the local organization has created a public exhibition.
Warren: The Reason Station, staffed and organized by FFRF activist Douglas Marshall, included the centerpiece “May Reason Prevail” sign. It was up for the fourth straight year at City Hall. The Reason Station, staffed by Marshall and others, offers information from a nonreligious perspective to counter a prayer station.
Maplewood: The Bill of Rights “nativity” display was put up in the business district of the city.
Cleveland: The Northern Ohio Freethought Society, the local chapter of FFRF, obtained a spot at the Cleveland Public Square for the Bill of Rights exhibit for the second year.
Freethought Society Director Marni Huebner-Tiborsky and other group volunteers put up the exhibit.
Eugene: A large banner that spans 30 feet by 4 feet and stretches across 8th Street contains the message: “Celebrate the Solstice. Tis the Season of Reason.”
A similarly large banner has been hung up in the area in previous years that features “Christmas” and “Jesus” in large letters. FFRF thanks member Charles Jones for his activism in getting this banner up.
Olympia: FFRF’s “Let Reason Prevail” banner was erected on the grounds of the state Capitol by Darrell Barker and others.
Madison: For the 23rd consecutive year, FFRF was able to place its solstice sign at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison.
It also displayed its Bill of Rights cutout.
Milwaukee: County Executive Chris Abele graced the installation ceremony of FFRF’s Winter Solstice display on Dec. 3.
FFRF put it up with the help of member Ted Shellhamer.