Celebrating the Winter Solstice season

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s annual Winter Solstice and Bill of Rights exhibits were displayed in December all across the country.

The signs, cutouts, banners and billboards were placed in at least 12 states during 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:

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:

California

Sacramento: The Bill of Rights display was put up by the Greater Sacramento chapter of FFRF outside the state Capitol.

San Diego: Two of FFRF’s Solstice displays were put up to counter the religious messages placed on public property in Balboa Park. A large red Winter Solstice banner was placed next to FFRF’s Bill of Rights nativity display.


Connecticut

Shelton: FFRF’s Winter Solstice banner was put up by Jerry Bloom in Huntington Park.

Illinois

Arlington Heights: The Bill of Rights scene was displayed at North School Park, its seventh year there, thanks to FFRF’s Metropolitan Chicago chapter.

Chicago: A colorful banner invoking the Founding Fathers has again been unfurled in Daley Plaza by the Metropolitan Chicago chapter. Sitting atop the banner stand is a large lighted Richard Dawkins-inspired “A” (for atheism) sign. This is the seventh year of the display, intended to counter a life-size Christian creche and a massive Jewish menorah placed at the location by private organizations since the 1980s.

Glenview: The Metropolitan Chicago chapter also placed a Bill of Rights nativity display at the Village Hall for the first time.

Libertyville: The Metropolitan Chicago chapter put up the Bill of Rights cutout at Cook Memorial Park, the first year that a freethought exhibit has been displayed at this site. A life-size Christian creche and an 8-foot tall menorah have been placed in the park for several years.

Morris: The Bill of Rights display and Winter Solstice sign were 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 11th straight year. It was installed by FFRF member Kathryn Koldehoff.


Iowa

Des Moines: The Bill of Rights cutout was put up in the state Capitol for the third straight year.


Michigan

Warren: The Reason Station, staffed and organized by FFRF activist Douglas Marshall, was up for the fifth straight year at City Hall. The centerpiece was a “May Reason Prevail” sign.

Also in Warren, Scott Elliott and other members put up a “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia” sign on Dec. 1 on the Mound Road median. Unfortunatley, within a couple days, it was stolen (poles and all) by vandals. Nevertheless, by getting the permit to place the sign on the right-of-way median, Elliott was able to keep the nativity creche from being placed there.


New Hampshire

Concord: FFRF Member Jack Shields put up FFRF’s Bill of Rights nativity cutout display outside New Hampshire’s Capitol building for the second year. (A photo appeared in the December issue.)


New Jersey

Maplewood: The Bill of Rights nativity display was put up in the business district of the city.


New York

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.


Ohio

Cleveland: The Northern Ohio Freethought Society, the local chapter of FFRF, obtained a spot at the Cleveland Public Square for the Bill of Right exhibit for the third year


Oregon

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.” FFRF thanks Member Charles Jones for his activism in getting this banner up.


Washington

Olympia: FFRF’s “Let Reason Prevail” banner was erected on the grounds of the state Capitol by Darrell Barker and others from the “Unfettered Freethinkers of South Sound,” a chapter of FFRF. The sign was vandalized days after being put up, but Barker and others returned it to its original state.


Wisconsin

Madison: For the 24th consecutive year, FFRF was able to place its solstice sign at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison. It also displayed its Bill of Rights cutout.

North Hudson: Ken Wolter was able to put up FFRF’s Bill of Rights display outside the North Hudson Village Hall.