The foundation’s co-president, Dan Barker, said it was important for atheists to offer their viewpoint alongside the overtly religious Nativity scene and Christmas-style holiday tree.
“Our members want equal time,” Barker said. “Not to muscle, not to coerce, but just to have a place at the table.”
The three displays, all privately sponsored, were granted permits from state groundskeepers to be placed in the Capitol’s grand marble hallways.
For now, the atheist sign is a stand-in. The metal plaque meant for display was delayed by a shipping error, Barker said.
It will be two-sided, with a lengthy message on the main side, and “Keep State/Church Separate” on the back. Barker said that step is necessary because critics have sometimes spun around the group’s other statehouse display, in Wisconsin, in hopes of hiding its message.
Obviously, this sign has a right to be displayed next to the others.
But what will be the effect?
Will it cause religious people to consider atheism? Will it make silent atheists more vocal?
Or will it turn people away from atheism altogether?
Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy says this:
I’m not convinced that this sign is a good way to promote atheism. Passers-by who are not atheists themselves are likely to find it more offensive than persuasive. As a legal matter, however, I think that atheist groups should have the same rights to put up displays on public property as religious groups do. I don’t object if theists are allowed to put up creches, menorahs, and so forth on public property so long as agnostics, atheists, and others are accorded similar privileges.
LabRat at Atomic Nerds isn’t a fan:
Do all of us infidels a favor — you know us, the least-trusted minority in America — and sit down, be quiet, and SMILE when someone wishes you a Merry Christmas or Chappy Chanukah or Reverent Ramadan or Krazy Kwanzaa or whatever generic sentiment that assumes you view the winter season as anything other than a yearly astrological event. They are wishing you good will — the smart thing to do is take it, and return it.
It’s in short enough supply as it is no matter what flavor it comes in.
Where do you stand?
One other thing I just found interesting. tricyrtis.hirta was at the Capitol building watching a giant Christmas tree get set up. She has a set of pictures on Flickr of the proceedings. Along the way, she caught FFRF’s Dan Barker bringing the temporary sign into the building:
He looks so alone there… that just seemed poignant to me.