In Response to Religious Displays, Atheists Put Up Winter Solstice Sign in Niles, IL

This is a Nativity scene on government property in Niles, IL:

There’s also a menorah there (See? Inclusion!)… but that’s it.

Well, if the city wants to be inclusive, they really need a display from a non-religious perspective, too, so the Freedom From Religion Foundation chapter in Chicago asked the city to put up a sign of their own among the others, and this is what just went up Thursday afternoon!

Jacob Fortin designed that excellent image.

By the way, I’m now a member of the FFRF – Metropolitan Chicago Chapter. If you’re in the area, join up so we can respond to these sorts of church/state separation violations as they emerge.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Annie

    Their message is simple and to the point.  Nicely done!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705066677 Desiree Bell-Fowlks

    Nice display.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Awesome!
    How big is the sign and where is it located relative to the nativity scene?
    (Does is get similar space and prominence in its display?)

    • Steve Foulkes

      The sign is about 18 x 24 inches or so, about four or five feet left of the nativity scene. The religious
      display contains two or three life size people and two life size animals. This is the size that the Niles local government would
      allow for the sign. Keep tuned to http://www.ffrfmcc.org. We should be posting pictures of the both displays within a couple of days or so.

  • http://billybobsbibleblog.blogspot.com/ billybobbibb

    ~waits for the fallout~

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    Jacob talked about the sign on his podcast. It’s great to see it. 

  • Kengi

    Does anyone know the exact location? Niles is a pretty big place. I’d like to go check it out.

    • Steve Foulkes

      One block east of Waukegan Rd on Oakton in Niles, take the road south at the lights. The sign is a hundred yards or so down. You’ll be surprised at how small the sign is, compared to the size of the religious display. This was the largest size that the Niles local government would allow. So much for religious and secular equality!

      • Kengi

        Thanks. I’ll check it out next time I’m in that area.

  • Michaelbrice

    Still can’t find the menorah, think I found Waldo tho’.

  • Drew M.

    I really like this one!

  • C Peterson

    It’s a very nice design, although it isn’t at all obvious that it was put up by atheists.

    • Annie

       Perhaps, but I think the more important message is that our government is secular.  It’s an important reminder, especially when placed next to a nativity scene.

      • C Peterson

        Exactly. That is the message, and it has nothing to do with atheism. A Christian can support secularism, and can even celebrate the winter solstice! This message is very inclusive.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kathleen-OConnor-Collins/100000234282554 Kathleen O’Connor Collins

      And the nativity scene was put up by who?  The Jews?

      • C Peterson

        I assume it was put up by the city.

        • Annie

           Yes!  Important point C Peterson.  By the city… a group that is supposed to be secular. Kathleen’s comment drives this home… the fact that many governmental organizations that should be secular are showing Christian privilege. 

          • C Peterson

            Yes, that was my point as well.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    That photo is fake! The Statue of Liberty was not dedicated until 1186, well after the death of Benjamin Franklin (1790), Thomas Jefferson (1826) and George Washington (1799)

    • Reginald Selkirk

       Typo, that should have been 1886.

      • Questyning

        This thread made me chuckle.  Thanks for that.

  • WTF

    what’s up with the leaning tower of Pisa?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1373273452 Kerri Bachler-Connor

    Um but the winter solstice IS a religious holiday. 

    • Sharonlynnvn

      This is quite true. Pagans and Wiccans celebrate the Solstice aka Yule and have done so for thousands of years before “christians”.  Not all religions are hate based and this aspect needs to be understoood. I celebrate the Solstice but not other faith paths.

      • dwasifar karalahishipoor

        > Pagans and Wiccans celebrate the Solstice aka Yule and have done so for thousands of years…

        Pagans have.  Wiccans haven’t.  Wicca is a 20th-century invention.

        • Sindigo

          Paganism isn’t much older. At least, not in the way that Paganism is generally referred to as a modern religious movement.

    • Annie

       But the winter solstice is an astronomical event that we can observe and prove.  It requires absolutely no faith in a mythological being to recognize.  It may be a religious holiday for some, but it is also a scientific pattern that we can celebrate.

    • C Peterson

      The winter solstice is not a religious holiday in modern western culture. It is a day with cultural and astronomical significance. Perhaps a few people imbue it with some spiritual significance, but that doesn’t make it a religious holiday for most people.

      • Megaera

        As a Pagan myself, I agree with C Peterson.  It’s a religious holiday for some (including me) but it is also an observable, concrete astronomical event.  The lengthening days are relevant to everyone. Celebrating the birth of Jesus, while having deep religious significance for many, is none of those things.

  • annoyed

    I live in muskegon, mi and they have a huge nativity scene and tree in a city park paid for with tax dollars this is annoying because I don’t see why my taxes should pay for some one elses religious beliefs if it was a pagan pride sign or something like that they would protest as they do for anything else I feel when public parks and tax money gets used for such they should be forced by llaw to take them down and be fined for it

    • Guest

       So let them know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1373273452 Kerri Bachler-Connor

    I don’t understand why the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is pushing one religion instead of another. I’d think they would be against all religions.

    • Annie

       They’re not pushing any religion.  They are wishing people a happy change of seasons.   I’m not sure where you got a sense that they were pushing religion from.

    • C Peterson

      How is celebrating the date that the amount of daylight starts increasing again remotely religious?

      And the FFRF isn’t against any religions. It is not really an atheist organization, nor is it particularly anti-theist. It is against unconstitutional entanglements between state and church- a secularist organization.

      • Steve Foulkes

         The FFRF and local chapter FFRFMCC have the following in common in their missions:
        1 – Promote and uphold the constitutional principle of separation of state and church2 – Educate the public on matters relating to non-theism
         

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711717333 facebook-711717333

    Winter solstice isn’t exactly non-religious…it’s a Pagan holiday ;-) But yeah I get the idea…;-)

    • C Peterson

      It is a day that has some spiritual significance to pagans- of whom there aren’t many. To the vast majority of people in the modern world, it has no religious significance at all, and isn’t seen as a pagan holiday.

  • Weritas

    The Winter Solstice, Summer Solstice, Autumn Equinox, and Spring Equinox are ALL Religious Holidays for specific Religions in MODERN Western Culture.  They are also Astro events.  The fact that they ARE astro events is the reason they are Religious Holidays for Pagans, Wiccans, Etc.  All of which are legally recognized religions in the U.S. and other enlightened Western Countries.  These days also have significance in Hinduism, et al.  So, sorry, my dear Atheists, we did have them first.  Like the pentacle, pentegram, etc, we are not going to stand by and let you steal our Holidays and say they are simply secular.  They are Secular and Sacred, and that is what makes them cool.  You might also want to rethink the term ‘Atheist’ as well.  It was what the Romans called early Christians as they were ‘without Gods’ … just saying…

    • Guest

      The fact is solstices and equinoxes were secular long before people molded their religions around them. The universe doesn’t care what denomination you are.

    • Drakk

       The Earth’s rotational axis was tilted long before any silly religious people decided to attach arbitrary meaning to its effects on the solar cycle.

    • Sindigo

      Other people have told you where you’re wrong on the supposed “sacredness” of astrological events so I’ll just pick you up on a point of language. “Atheist” is from Greek, not latin. As a term, it emerged in 16thc France.

      You also ought to look into the history of the word “Pagan” if you are to bandy it about like it’s a thing. It only exists as a word since the 14thc; from the Latin “paganus” and meant “villager, rustic; civilian, non-combatant” orginally. It’s only been applied to modern pantheists and nature-worshippers since 1908.

      Language changes and terms get co-opted for different uses but before one accuses someone of using a term inappropriately one really should get one’s own lexical house in order.

  • Jason Robertson

    I am excited to see that there’s a successful chapter formation for FFRF here, but looking at where they seem to like doing events it seems like it might be one of those groups that is hostile to folks who, you know, actually _live_ in Chicago. Please tell me that it isn’t so, and it won’t put car privilege over egalitarian access?

    • Steve Foulkes

       Jason,
      The President and initial organizer of the FFRF Metropolitan Chicago Chapter (FFRFMCC) happens to live in Niles. We have members from all over the Chicago area. I am on the board and live in Grayslake. We are not hostile to any location and encourage you to become a local member. We happen to meet a lot at the Ethical Humanist Society in Skokie because they have a wonderful venue. Hope to see you at one of our meetings soon. http://www.ffrfmcc.org.

  • LIONRAMPANT

    This is pathetic.  “Church/ State separation violations”?  What exactly is this a violation of? Certainly not the establishment clause.  Check your facts.