Forced to Put Up FFRF Sign, Cheboygan City Council Bans All Displays on City Property

This is the Nativity scene the local Kiwanis chapter in Cheboygan, Michigan has been putting up on city property for the past 50 years:

Of course, you all know that can’t happen on government property since it’s an endorsement of Christianity. The Freedom From Religion Foundation knows this, too, so they told the City Council they wanted to put up their own sign nearby. After all, if you’re going to endorse one belief system, you can’t discriminate.

The City Council had a decision to make: Allow the FFRF sign (which they didn’t like) or ban all religious/non-religious displays on public property.

FFRF’s pressure worked:

On the advice of the city attorney, Cheboygan City Council decided Tuesday night to prohibit all private displays on city properties after a Madison, Wisc., group wanted to post a non-religious sign next to the Kiwanis’ nativity scene.

Councilwoman Theo Lepp said putting a banner with words up near the nativity that does not have words, is not an equal comparison. Councilman Nicholas Couture said that is not the case.

“The scene doesn’t have a statement, but the reality is the symbolism is just as powerful,” he said. “As government officials, we can’t discriminate.”

He said it was not realistic for the city to allow the nativity scene to stay and not put the banner up because of the cost of a lawsuit the city could face.

A lot of people complain about the FFRF sign and others like it, saying the messages are too combative. But this is one of the reasons FFRF takes this route: It forces city officials to decide whether they want to follow the First Amendment (and probably anger religious conservatives in the process) or get hit with an expensive lawsuit (which they would lose).

The Cheboygan officials had the option of allowing both the Nativity scene and the atheist display.

They chose to ban all displays instead.

I’m fine with that. I’m sure FFRF is, too. Let the local churches put up Nativity scenes on their own property. It’s not the government’s job to do that for Christians.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • MargueriteF

    Good outcome. As much as I personally do not care for the FFRF sign, it does seem to have the desired effect, which is reminding cities and towns that if they allow all belief systems to be represented, they probably won’t like what gets displayed. Nativity scenes don’t belong on public land– there are plenty of other places they can be put up.

  • sil-chan

    Just ignore reality Councilwoman Theo Lepp. Never mind that the nativity scene DOES have words on it.

  • Cindy

    Who knew Jesus was born in a trailer park?

  • Emily Dietle

    It’s a great time to let Cheboygan City Council, and Councilpersons Theo Lepp & Nicholas Couture know that they made the right decision upholding the law. or

  • fsm

    Wow, is that thing tacky looking. No wonder only the city officials allow it to be parked on government property. I would think that most church officials would have a fit with trailer park nativity sitting in their parking lot.

  • Gus Snarp

    This is a great victory in my book. I’d much rather see all religious displays on government property banned than a secular organization getting to add theirs. Government property is just not the place for this sort of thing for three reasons (at least):

    1. First and foremost, multiple displays is an attempt to pull a fast one on the first amendments. The courts have mostly fallen for it, but I think it’s still a government endorsement of religion. If the city has a nativity scene, one of the most important images of the dominant religion in this country, on display, and the grudgingly allow a menorah and an FFRF sign, is anyone fooled into thinking that those are anything but legal loopholes to allow them to continue to endorse the majority religion?

    2. They’re just tacky. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a nativity scene that wasn’t, and this one is no exception. Adding more displays only increases the tackiness.

    3. Our signs tend to suck.

  • Cecelia Baines


    Goose, meet Gander….Gander, meet Goose…..You two have a lot to share…..

  • Helanna

    This is good. I just don’t understand why the government would even put up a nativity scene. Put up lights! Put up wreaths, decorate trees, put up Santas and candy canes and presents and garlands. That way, everything looks pretty, everyone can celebrate, and everyone is equally represented, no problems. Religious displays have no business whatsoever on government property, and there’s no way to argue that a nativity scene isn’t religious.

  • Tobias27

    I don’t get why so many people think that the FFRF sign is combative. I don’t see how you could state the atheist or humanist perspective any more rationally. I understand that scaring or abusing religious people can have detrimental effects on out movement, but the fact is there is no god. And allowing people to believe that there is is a giant anchor on human progress. FFRF isn’t denigrating anyone’s humanity. They’re just telling it like it is in a fairly neutral and gentle way (IMHO)

  • Blacksheep

    It still seems odd to me that a sign representing another belief system would be critical of others. It would seem natural to me for FFRF to put up a “Happy Holiday’s”, “Happy Solstice” or “Happy Yule” sign – something that celebrates something in the spirit of the season. The bulk of the messaging on the FFRF sign is anti-religion. (It’s exactly the same as putting up a sign that says, “Wishing Cheboygan a Merry Christmas: Athists are wrong, because there is a God, and not believing in him hardens hearts and enslaves minds”

    When atheists put up a Christmas tree, I assume it’s because they’re beautiful, smell nice, and are part of the season’s tradition (and they’re not featured in the Bible). That feels like celebrating the season to me.

  • ortcutt

    A city can’t decide that pro-religion statements are OK and anti-religion ones are not OK. That’s textbook viewpoint discrimination, which is nearly always forbidden by the First Amendment in public fora.

  • ortcutt

    It’s important to distinguish between government speech on government property from private speech on government property. Government speech that promotes religion will fall afoul of the Establishment Claus, so cities have been getting around that by allowing private speech on government property. When they do that though, they have to do in in a non-discriminatory way. They can’t say that some viewpoints are welcome but not others and they can’t give preference to some speech over others. I’m still surprised though that when atheists utilize the public forum that they city sets up to circumvent the Establishment Clause, cities invariably shut down the forum. They would rather deprive everyone of a public forum rather than have atheists utilize it.

  • C Peterson

    It’s “combative” because it fairly assertively challenges the beliefs of others, whereas most holiday displays simply promote beliefs. It is also perceived as inappropriate by some because the message (humanist, but not atheist) is unrelated to the holiday represented, the solstice.

    But as has been pointed out, being combative is part of the plan here. The Constitution protects all religious views, which includes the passively non-religious as well as the actively anti-religious. The concept of “socially inappropriate” is not of Constitutional concern. In choosing a public message that is both legal and inappropriate (to many), people and government are educated about the First Amendment, and given the opportunity to do the right thing- simply remove all endorsements of religious viewpoint from government property.

  • A3Kr0n

    Michigan Mittens say Cheboygan, and Wisconsin Cheesheads say Sheboygan.
    I suppose the FFRF could have a blank area representing the lack of a religious icon, but that would be pretty boring. They made the news, and that’s important.

  • Dan

    Placing a xian symbol is “critical” of my beliefs, am I not one of the others? you can’t have it both ways and the fact you don’t see the nativity scene as an insult to intelligence (and the constitution speaks volumes. the cross is akin to a swastika IMO, because atheists (and non-xians) have faced persecution since this crap started. Why don’t the xians put up happy holidays or an f…ing yule log!

  • A3Kr0n

    That’s a very reasonable idea. I love lights!

  • C Peterson

    The intent is to be critical of others. The intent is to be sufficiently annoying, while being entirely legal under the First Amendment, that governments are driven to take the simplest, cheapest, and arguably best approach to the matter and simply ban the display of all religious ideology on publicly owned land. It isn’t about “celebrating”.

    What is interesting here is that under the First Amendment, the sign as shown can be excluded from display because it is anti-religious. I believe that the same sign, without the reference to gods, could be legally displayed by the government at any time and any place.

  • Dan

    Not allowing FFRF to place a sign shows they are not interested in separation, and are actually endorsing a specific religious group. it is not the place for forum, a forum on what? Any symbol of religion is a discriminatory remark to a free thinker.

  • dan

    Amazes me how many politicians say it was”not realistic for the city to allow the nativity scene to stay
    and not put the banner up because of the cost of a lawsuit the city
    could face”. Nothing about it being illegal and unfair.

  • MooseCW

    “because of the cost of a lawsuit the city could face”

    These people are awful. They don’t give a hoot about the law. They only care that they don’t have the money to fight the battle —>> AGAINST THE LAW.

  • C Peterson

    They would rather deprive everyone of a public forum rather than have atheists utilize it.

    Yes, that is often their approach. But it’s also reasonable. The matter of public expression in governmental spaces almost always involves speech or demonstrations, not objects. Neither of those are at issue here. How many cities regularly allow the unrestricted establishment of private speech in the form of signs or displays on publicly owned land? It is very uncommon. Basically, seasonal religious displays placed by private parties on public land are already an exception to existing rules.

    In most places, a private citizen could paint a nativity scene on a sign, march down to City Hall, and stand on the lawn without breaking any rules at all. I guess that’s just a little too uncomfortable for most Christians, though!

  • MooseCW

    And it’s not just about the ‘law’. They are bullies. Plain and simple. Their belief is the only thing that matters to them. They could not care less about the diversity of their community.

  • MooseCW

    By the way, I really like the FFRF sign. My opinion. The sign is not combative, it is based on known facts (no gods have been proven to exist!) and states a valid opinion.

  • roz77

    Are you actually comparing the persecution you have faced as an atheist to the persecution faced by Jews and others in Nazi Germany?

  • greg1466

    I like the implication that they’re not making the change because it’s the legally appropriate action, but rather because a bunch of non-theists forced them to.

  • Pureone

    This reminds me of the “it’s okay to be an atheist, but not call bullcrap on others beliefs” meme I’ve seen on Facespace. The problem/double standard I see is that by definition the monotheists/Christians challenge and call bull crap all other beliefs.

  • GloomCookie613

    That’s what my little town does. All mangers are on private property and the town only puts up santas, trees, wreaths, and festive planters.

  • Jill Holdstock

    “The intent is to be critical of others. The intent is to be sufficiently annoying,”

    No, the intent is to make a simple statement about the fact that there are no gods. Choose to be annoyed or not. I am regularly annoyed when I have to listen to stupid comments about how god “took home” 20 innocent children who were gunned down. I am annoyed about thanking god for a good outcome when it had everything to do with one’s hard work and perseverance. I am annoyed when patients and their families thank god they are alive, when it was really highly educatated medical professionals using science and technology created by man, which kept them alive. I am confronted by annoying Christianity every single day.

  • Chelesea

    I live in Cheboygan, and I am in no way shape or form a “extreme religious conservative” and yet, I’m still astonished. From the information that I’ve gathered, a group from Wisconsin, apparently the FFRF, was somehow offended by a nativity scene that has been displayed in this town for as long as I can remember. I’ve heard of anti-religion groups doing this, but it really hits home when it’s your own town. I feel sickened that an atheist group is so passionate about their beliefs that they actually put time and energy into traveling to rural towns looking for a potential lawsuit- it’s condescending. Ironic they mention religion “hardens hearts” considering this is their idea of “missionary work”. A true Christian’s missionary work, on the other hand, involves a much different type of work ;) That speaks volumes. Sometimes what is legal, is not always ethical and the motive of this group was terribly unethical. Whatever happened to common sense- or respect for another’s beliefs for that matter? They succeeded in making a town, deeply rooted in Christianity, take down a traditional nativity scene. How can trampling over someone’s beliefs with an anti christian sign make anyone feel good about themselves? Who made that sign anyway? I’d like to applaud them on the creativity, compassion and obvious intelligence that went into the sign that is supposedly spreading “Christmas cheer”. Simply, a “Merry Christmas from the FFRF” or even some sort of atheist symbol would have sufficed if they really wanted felt the need to exercise their freedom of speech in a distant town. Believe what you want to believe- don’t come to another town and disrespect theirs. It wasn’t central park, it was a SMALL rural town in northern Michigan.

  • ortcutt

    “Public forum” is a bit of legal terminology in First Amendment jurisprudence. These seasonal display cases always revolve around Establishment Clause issues and Public Forum issues.

    I won’t vouch for the legal accuracy of this but this is a short introduction.

  • Cecelia Baines

    Hey diddledink,

    There is something that supercedes your shitty little Michigan town called the Federal Government and the Bill of Rights.

    You do know what those are don’t you? Or were you to busy being a pious buttwipe during “Civics” in junior high?

    The ethnocentric argument fails on so many levels…..

  • Chelesea

    I wouldn’t expect a less disrespectful response. Apparently you missed the part where I said “Simply, a “Merry Christmas from the FFRF” or even some sort of atheist
    symbol would have sufficed if they really wanted felt the need to
    exercise their freedom of speech in a distant town.” Or were you too busy thinking of the most derogatory comment you could muster? ;) Have a Happy Holiday!

  • ortcutt

    So, they’re supposed to “exercise their freedom of speech” by saying “Merry Christmas” but saying something else isn’t appropriate? I don’t think you understand what freedom of speech is about. It’s not freedom to only express one particular viewpoint and not an opposing viewpoint.

  • Chelesea

    Point. But again, I said “or some sort of atheist symbol” would have been comparative to the town’s religious symbol. The town wasn’t making a political statement. They put up the same nativity set that they had been putting up for years. You’re right, what that group did was completely legal. I’m not looking at this from a legal perspective, and I’m not trying to make a legal argument. I was simply pointing out that their intent seemed unethical, especially since they weren’t from here. If someone in this town were offended, it would have been handled with open arms….at least if I were the one dealing with it. I have NO problem with atheist beliefs, in fact, I used to be one…in junior high :) I’m not trying to offend anyone, but come on- if the situation were in reverse, and some missionary came to your predominately atheist town and stuck a nativity scene next to your anti-religious Christmas sign…wouldn’t it strike a nerve?

  • C Peterson

    There is a clear intent to be annoying with this message. It is very in-your-face. And it works!

    You have to consider that there’s more to this message than what is written on the sign. The entire message consists of that, but it also consists of where and when it is presented.

  • Blacksheep

    It’s mainly because Christmas is based on the nativity. Not everyone celebrates it that way, but Christmas is, in name and tradition, a celebration of the birth of Christ. (For at least 1500 years). So It’s not that odd that the government would allow it to be put up. Even from a historical perspective, that’s what Christmas is. It would be VERY odd if they put up a religious display on July 4th, or Presidents Day, because that’s not what those holidays stand for.

  • Blacksheep

    Understood, but what does making a statement that there are no Gods have to do with Christmas or Holiday?

  • viaten

    It bothers me a little that these people relent to avoid a costly law suit and not because it’s the appropriate thing to do. It seems like they’re saying “Look what they made us do. Someday …” But it’s still a step in the right direction. Hopefully they will someday say “It seems now that this way is better.”

  • vivre

    You completely missed the spirit of that post. Responding with anger and condescension is not the only way to converse. Not everyne agrees with you, you’ll have to accept that. (or not, but eventually your tiny head will explode).

  • Blacksheep

    Did someone from Cheboygan complain about the sign, or was it truly an outside group butting in? Curious.

  • Blacksheep

    He’s making a good point: If atheists want the word “Christmas” to mean something other than the birth of Christ, they need to start using it as such. Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph were doing an excellent job of stripping Christ out of Christmas. These types of challenges remind Christians to put it back in!

  • Cecelia Baines

    “Have a Happy Holiday!”

    translation from you to me – “Go fuck yourself”.

    Hey sweetheart, if you really want to tell me to go fuck myself, tell me to go fuck myself. BE honest, stand up.

    And from me to you, go fuck yourself.

  • ortcutt

    I don’t think that Christians needed any encouragement from atheists to complain about “Keeping the Christ in Christmas”. I have no problem with Christians who do that, although I obviously think that the story is false. I just have a problem when Christians expect our government to promote Christianity or when our government privileges Christian messages over other pro-or-anti religious messages in public fora.

  • Cecelia Baines

    First off, if a missionary came to an “atheist town” that exists in, oh I didn’t know, OPPOSITE WORLD, and tried to put up a religious sign or display on public/government property, the atheists would not allow it, nor would they allow secular/atheist signs because it goes against the Bill of Rights! We are smart enough to not infringe on that in the first time!

    So your scenario, while I sure you find it pithy and quite smart, is a real logical false-trap and nonsense.

    And you talk about freedom of speech, but have been doing nothing but telling what or how to talk/display/behave. That is the epitome of condescension!

    As for “unethical” – before you play that card, explain to me how it is ethical for the Xian nativity scene to be on public/government property in the first place, THEN we will have the conversation about our alleged unethical behavior.

  • Anna

    I’m not trying to offend anyone, but come on- if the situation were in reverse, and some missionary came to your predominately atheist town and stuck a nativity scene next to your anti-religious Christmas sign…wouldn’t it strike a nerve?

    If I put up an anti-religious Christmas sign on government property, then it would not be at all wrong for the Christians to demand that their sectarian display be included, too. That’s the entire point. We don’t want endorsement of religion (or irreligion) on government property, but if people insist on putting it there, then all viewpoints must be included.

    Far better to keep government property a neutral space. There are many appropriate places for a nativity scene. In front of churches. On people’s lawns. In a private place of business. Government property is not an appropriate place to put a religious display.

    Atheists are not asking for the government to promote atheism. We have never asked the government to put “there is no God” on money or “under no God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. We don’t ask for invocations at city hall asserting the non-existence of gods. We don’t set up special “no-prayer” breakfasts for public officials. And we don’t ask to hang banners proclaiming atheism in front of city hall. It’s the Christians who do that. We are merely pushing back against their promotion of their religion.

  • Anna

    Yes, it is odd that they would put it up. I have spent my entire life in an extremely diverse major metropolitan area, and not once have I ever seen a nativity scene on government property! Christians are still the majority here, but public officials have the good sense and common decency to understand that city hall is not the place for a sectarian religious display. It’s a shame that Christians in other parts of the country can’t seem to get a grasp on it. Surely they’re not ignorant. They’re either blinded by religious privilege, or they have a desire to promote their religion at the expense of all other viewpoints.

  • Edmond

    They are not required to “take down” their nativity, nor are their beliefs being “trampled”.

    They may display their nativity on PRIVATE property, or on CHURCH property. Just not on taxpayer-funded property.

    The thing to remember in conflicts like this, is that “the government” is not the one who put up the display. PEOPLE did it. A person, or a group of people, who hold a personal favorite religion, decided to use government resources to promote it. They have, in effect, hijacked the government in order to use it to promote their own personal sentiments. No matter how many people come together for this purpose, it remains wrong. There must be a MILLION places, even in a small town like this, to put up such a display so that it is NOT on government property.

    Some of us hold the belief that religion is a personal matter, and that the government should remain neutral in this area. THAT is the belief that is being trampled. “Respecting someone’s beliefs” does NOT mean that we allow them to slap their trademark all over our shared, mutual property.

  • Anna

    Atheists have never asked Christians to take “Christ out of Christmas.” We just don’t want it on government property. You can put as much Jesus as you want in your own private Christmas, in your private home, in your private church, in your private business, and in your private school.

  • Blacksheep

    I’m curious if others here are OK with the way you speak to people. This is not a freedom of speech issue, it’s a common courtesy issue. Seriously, everyone is OK with this? On one hand it’s entertaining, but on the other it disrespectful to the forum.

  • Blacksheep

    me placing a Christian symbol is no more critical of your beliefs than a jew placing a menorah or a Hindu placing a Ganesha. I don’t subscribe to those religions, but they are not “critical” to me.

    cross:swastica? Silly.

  • coyotenose

    Some of them do actually want to obey the law, and use the money excuse to defuse Christian backlash. Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to tell which is which.

  • coyotenose

    Christianity is about exclusion and judgment in that it explicitly says that if you don’t belong to the club, then screw you. That is most assuredly critical of others, no matter how it’s couched.

    The FFRF’s sin is being forthright about its position here. It’s not a position I would take during Christmas, but I grasp the point of it.

  • coyotenose

    No, the intent is to make a simple statement about the fact that there are no gods.

    C Peterson is correct. The FFRF has said this. The intent of making the statement is to pressure local governments to ban all religious and anti-religion displays rather than allow all by putting up signs so irritating (or annoying if you will) that nobody is willing to take the hit to push their own religion.

  • coyotenose

    The Nativity doesn’t actually have anything to do with the holiday. It didn’t occur anywhen near December, it was a stolen Pagan holiday, and celebrating Christmas as we do here is actually a pretty new thing. Such celebrations were historically overwhelmingly condemned by Christianity. The feasting and merrymaking? That’s Saturnalia. The religious just eventually gave up trying to stop it, and then joined in.

    So considering that: Welcome to the party!

  • coyotenose

    No. Do not even by implication, even hyperbolically, try to equate persecution of atheists with that of Jews. Jews have been overtly oppressed, harassed, robbed, raped and murdered for how they were born since that Judas myth was written, and that isn’t even counting the Nazis.

    Google “Blood Libel”. Communities were wiped out for that.

    Now look up “pogrom”. Treatment of Jews has been so consistently vile that they had to create a word to describe it.

  • coyotenose

    Hinduism doesn’t teach that everyone is rotten and worthless and that those who don’t admit it are going to suffer eternally.

    It’s easy to not be offended when you’re the overwhelming majority and everything is set up to cater to you. It’s like how racial slurs against whites can’t upset me; the power differential is tipped too far in my favor, and so there is no other negative treatment for them to remind me of.

  • coyotenose

    In most places, a private citizen could paint a nativity scene on a
    sign, march down to City Hall, and stand on the lawn without breaking
    any rules at all. I guess that’s just a little too uncomfortable for
    most Christians, though!

    Well, it doesn’t involve forcing other citizens to subsidize the message, so why bother?

  • coyotenose

    *blinks* I didn’t see the wheels. That monstrosity is hyuge.

  • coyotenose

    I’m all for slapping people who come in for the first time with bad arguments, sloppy thinking and snotty postings, but I don’t think Chelesea’s post crosses that line or even comes close to it. I think she(?) has just never heard the explanations of this issue before.

  • coyotenose

    I don’t mind telling people who should know better to fuck off, but in this case I think it isn’t appropriate. There are obviously wrong arguments, easily Googled and refuted arguments, and ones that aren’t such common knowledge. Chelesea, I think, is using the latter. She’s also not showing the attitude that shows up in a lot of first posts, which goes a LONG way.

    I wrote the other day that FFRF doesn’t seem to be competently explaining the purpose of their signs. It doesn’t rest on their shoulders alone, not in the Internet Age, but atheists may be considering the understanding of the purpose of the signs to be a given*. Jerry Coyne had to write an entire book just to explain what Evolutionists take for granted as the basics of the theory, because it turned out that while everyone assumes they understand it, few people do.

    *which is odd, because a number of atheists here have had needed an explanation.

  • coyotenose

    I assume then that to be consistent, you’re going to insist that the Holy Mass be put back in Christmas also?

  • coyotenose

    The atheists *we know* wouldn’t allow either religious or atheistic signs up in a theoretical atheist town. But people being what they are, if overt atheists formed a supermajority, yes, that would happen in places, maybe a lot of places. That’s why the fight for religious neutrality is to everyone’s benefit.

  • coyotenose

    You Northerners are weird, weird people.

    …says the Carolina Tarheel.

  • Cheles

    You know, you are right. I never looked at it in that way. I was merely speaking as a citizen of this town, and many of my comments may have been ignorant to the law. I assure you, the people in this town were not intentionally trying to rebel against the law…they were simply following tradition. I am proud that the council took a non confrontational route and put the nativity scene in a privately owned business just as visible as Washington Park. My argument? All
    of that time and energy being put into finding nativity scenes in small areas could have
    been put toward something much more productive….I can imagine whatever amount of money this group is spending on this could be used for something humanitarian, something that may actually help someone who really needed it. Then again, what do I know? You would have never catch me filing a law suit if someone didn’t take their anti-religious sign off my mutually shared property.

  • Anna

    Pardon the pun, but amen. Government neutrality benefits everyone. It benefits Christians, too. Christians in predominantly Muslim communities are benefited because the public schools are not allowed to lead their children in prayer to Allah, and the government cannot endorse Muslim holidays by splashing Isamic religious symbols all over city hall. A lot of Christians just can’t see it because they’re the majority, they like being the majority, and they can’t imagine not being the majority.

  • Chelesea

    It was a third party butting in. I’m still trying to figure out the intent- money from potential lawsuits, maybe educating an ignorant town? I think I’ve finally decided upon notoriety. I get the law- but I guess I don’t understand the big deal considering the complaint wasn’t coming from within our hometown.

  • Cheles

    thank you :) I was using the pathos writing technique, and I’m glad someone was intelligent enough to pick up on that.

  • C Peterson

    Christmas is a holiday that has something to do with gods, so it makes perfect sense for secularists or anti-theists to make a statement against gods at that time.

    What the statement has nothing to do with is solstice!

  • Anna

    But Chelsea, some of us do think that fighting for separation of church and state is productive. If you let these things slide, people don’t realize that the government cannot endorse religion. It also emboldens the people who want to erase the line of separation between church and state. Then what? In the name of “tradition,” you have people advocating for prayers in public schools, the Ten Commandments posted on public property, creationism in science class, etc.

    Government property is not your private property. It’s not anyone’s private property. Now if someone wanted to post an anti-religious sign in front of city hall, you can bet that people would be up in arms. Indeed, they didn’t even let the sign up. Good, I say, because the sign doesn’t belong there, just like a pro-Christian display doesn’t belong there. Why can’t we just leave government space neutral? It doesn’t need to contain endorsement of religion or irreligion.

  • nakedanthropologist

    The FFRF does not seek this stuff out independently – someone or several people have to register a complaint with the FFRF first. As a general rule, many of the people who do file complaints with FFRF request to remain anonymous, because of violent threats levied at individuals in the past. It’s not about “butting in” – people who are not Christian (or whatever) have to file a complaint first before the FFRF decides on a course of action. Here’s the thing, Chelsea. Let’s say you move to a predominantly Wiccan town. Would you want your children(s)’s public school to promote paganism? For there to be a maypole and other fertility symbols decorating city hall, public parks, and the Wican Rede displayed in your courthouse? All those little things imply that your government, which should be fair and not favor any faith (or non-faith) over any other, favored Wicca and perhaps Neo-Paganism over all else. In that situation, you would probably feel marginalized and perhaps intimidated. That’s how some people in your town feel right now – and so they were tired of being the implied other, the lesser. So they filed a complaint with the FFRF, and actions were taken.
    You really haven’t lost anything here except your expectation of priveledge. That nativity scene can still be displayed, just not on government property. There are plenty of churches, privately-owned land, homes, and businesses that can display any and all decorations that they like, including the Kiwanis nativity scene.
    One more thing. The demographics of our country are changing – we are growing ever more diverse as a nation (not that we were ever that homogenous to begin with) and one day you may find yourself in the minority in your town. Government neutrality regarding race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and age benefits everyone – including you. As I and others have previously stated, you nor your town has lost nothing, except your expectation of privelege. There is no ill will from most of us unbelievers or people of other faiths that share this country with you. We just want equality: nothing more or less. I’m sure the Kiwanis club can find any number of private individuals or organizations who will be more than happy to have the aforementioned nativity scene displayed on their property. As an agnostic and fellow American, I sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, and a prosperous New Year.

  • Rich Wilson

    I don’t recall any crucifixion displays on city property at Easter. It’s all about bunnies and eggs. Which I’d be happy to argue are pagan if I was worried that anyone was going to yell at me that this is a Pagan country, and if I don’t like it I can LEAVE!

  • Rich Wilson

    I suppose you could argue that the caste system is social, not religious, but from my limited knowledge they are connected, and it’s pretty horrific.

  • Rich Wilson

    It’s a pretty big chip if you ask me.

  • Rich Wilson

    I think naked just covered it, but in short, it is FFRF policy to only involve themselves after a local complaint. They are based in WI, but they are a national organizations with members in all 50 states. They are not an outsider butting in, they are supporting local member(s).

  • Helanna

    There are currently two Christmases, a secular one and a religious one.

    The secular one tends to be an overall celebration of the season, focusing on family and friends. It really more calls back to various pagan mid-winter/solstice celebrations, and has nothing whatsoever to do with Christ’s birth, so no nativity should be put up.

    The religious one, the government should not be endorsing anyway, so no nativity should be put up.

  • WoodyTanaka

    It’s very odd from the perspective of the fact that the Constitution outlaws it absent specific provisions for other people that Christians fight against.

  • WoodyTanaka

    “It still seems odd to me that a sign representing another belief system would be critical of others.”

    Of course it’s odd to you; you’re in the majority. I’m sure the men in the 1950s thought it was “odd” that the women took offense to the sexual assaults and harassment, too.

    ” something that celebrates something in the spirit of the season”

    because the FFRF is not trying to celebrate the spirit of the season; it’s trying to get Christians to stop abusing the power of government and violating the Constitution.

  • WoodyTanaka

    Because Christmas time is the time when the Christians in government all across the country violate the Constitution in pursuit of their Jesus worship.

  • WoodyTanaka

    You have to be willingly blind to not get the abuse of government power by Christians in this country. If we get to a point where Hindus are as powerful and abusive as Christians, then we’ll deal with Ganesh.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Cecelia,
    Scroll way down to Edmond’s polite response to Chelesea, where he explained the purpose the FFRF’s effort, and the value of keeping government neutral regarding religion. He made it safe and palitable for Chelesea to see the point of it, and to see the bigger picture that includes this diverse nation, not just her town. You can see by her immediate reply to him that without having to be humiliated, she was able to accept the solution of having the nativity scene placed on private property as a solution that is fair for everyone.

    Edmond helped this good outcome to happen by treating Chelesea respectfully and by not indulging in the sadistic pleasure of insulting and humiliating her.

    Please consider that you could use your intelligence and talents to actually make situations better rather than just venting in a way that unnecessarily antagonizes and galvanizes someone into a more intractable opinion, thereby making the situation worse. You can help to turn people like Chelesea into our allies rather than into more dedicated enemies.

  • Sandy Kokch

    Errrr actually roz77 and coyotenose you should think before waving that Godwins Law flag so quickly:

    1) Historically both Jews and Atheists have been highly persecuted minorities under Christianity. Ghettos? Yellow badges? Expulsion from the country en masse? Punitive taxation? Prohibition from holding office? All started in my own country of birth the UK long before those policies were started elsewhere. Thing is none of those applied to Atheists. They were just hung or burned at the stake, and the blasphemy laws they were persecuted under stayed in force till the end of the 1800s.

    2) Atheists were also put into the concentration camps along side Jews and many other political and racial “undesirables” by the Nazi regime.

    3) Atheists are still quasi banned from holding public office under the state level laws and constitutions of around 11 states in the USA to this day. Those laws have been used to try to prevent the non religious elected from taking up their offices. The fact that your USA Constitution trumps those laws, and saw off those challenges, does not change that reality one jot. And while the attitudes towards Jews taking public office has changed, and you now have Jewish representatives at all levels of political life, that is definitely not true for atheists and the non religious is it? Those laws and those prejudices have direct parallels with the situation in Nazi Germany and its anti-Semitic laws passed in the 1930s, and Russia in the 1930s onwards under Stalin. Dont feel too bad though. In the UK we were still banning atheists from holding office till the late 1800s – see for example Charles Bradlaugh, Nottingham MP and founder of the BHS. Thing is we packed that in and repealed the laws nearly 100 years ago.

    So at best your cry of foul is, to use a soccer reference, is a questionable yellow card call. Dan has a point – its relevant degree of accuracy is debatable, but he has a point all the same.

  • Sandy Kokch

    Trailer Park Jeebus! Yaay! Where is Ricky, Julian and Bubbles? Bring on Mr Lahey and Randy the Cheeseburger Elf!

  • Matthew Curry Pye

    Oh ok, so you made the city take down some art about something that didnt happen, because the big mean christian morons beleive it did. victory? nope, now the area is empty.

  • Thomas Farrell

    In my view this is not a victory.

    A victory would be FFRF’s sign going up.

    What we got instead is the precedent that it’s okay for a town to offer a forum for religious speech as long as atheists never try to use it and then cut it off the moment we do.

  • Drew M.

    So much for the idea of virgin birth.

  • Benjamin Duncan

    I’m from this town. For the entire time that Nativity scene was there I felt it was a message from my community that my son and I- who are atheists- didn’t belong in this town. We have suffered other sourts of religious discrimination other than this also because of our atheism. This was a very important thing to me and I am so thankful the FFRF took action to liberate my town from theocratic control (at least figuritively) by the evangelical community.

  • BrieS

    why is it that CHRISTIANITY is the ONLY religion that these scumbag atheist groups want to attack? What is wrong with these people? I’m all for freedom of religion but also RESPECTFUL of ALL religions- or lack thereof. Why do these guys go around and say “Hey, look! OMG A CROSS! LETS SUE so it gets taken down! Because we are offended!” Why doesn’t it go both ways???

  • Rich Wilson

    1) government endorsing religion (crosses on government property)
    2) government endorsing lack of religion (signs on government property saying “There is no God”)
    3) government not endorsing anything.

    People (theists and atheists) who support separation of church and state go after both of 1) and 2). Well, they WOULD go after 2) if it actually happened. But it doesn’t in the US. Ever.