‘Keep Saturn in Saturnalia’ Banner Rejected; ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ Banner Allowed

The Knights of Columbus currently have a sign reading “Keep Christ in Christmas” on government property (without a permit) in Pitman, New Jersey.

Ok. We’ve played this game before. If you want your display to be included in the mix, all you have to do is make a request and you shouldn’t be denied.

So that’s what the Freedom From Religion Foundation did. They applied for a permit to display their own response sign, which read, “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia”:

Saturnalia was a festival in Ancient Rome and some of its traditions are said to have been co-opted by early Christians in order to celebrate Christmas.

But borough officials rejected FFRF’s application:

“This is either a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, or a sign that needed a permit — and without a permit, the borough is showing favoritism to a Christian organization,” said FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel.

It may seem silly, but this is a clear-cut rejection of non-theistic claims in favor of religious ones. Governments have no business giving preference to one over the other.

Local FFRF members hoist the Saturnalia sign… but local officials said it will not be allowed on the property

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.

  • http://profiles.google.com/sfjetland Serge Fjetland

    ahh, but everyone knows that Christianity isnt a religion, its a religion, its a relationship!

    • Pepe

      You can be simultaneously in a relationship with your boy/girl friend, god, christ AND the holy spirit. Woozaah.

      • Kyle

        That’s called polygamy.

    • Pepe

      You can simultaneously be in a relationship with your boy/girl friend, god, christ AND the holy spirit. Yay. :P

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        And in Pitman, NJ Christians can simultaneously break the law AND be protected by it.

        And in Pitman, NJ borough officials can simultaneously grant freedom of speech for one group AND deny it for another.

        And those borough officials can simultaneously feel pious and privileged, AND get their asses sued off. Yay.

  • Gary Rooney

    The banner belongs to the Knights of Columbus so why can’t they display it at a local Catholic Church?

    • http://www.facebook.com/sean.m.parsons Sean Michael Parsons

      Because they want to be all up in your face about it. It is knee-jerk
      reactionaryism to their imagined percecusion and war on xmas-tripe.

      • http://www.facebook.com/claiborne.d.white Claiborne D White

        not usually a grammar Nazi but your spelling of persecution is painfull to read.,

        • Will Ross

          Painful indeed… :0)

        • http://www.facebook.com/sean.m.parsons Sean Michael Parsons

          Must not have been that bad, you dumb cunt, you knew what was was meant.

  • Jacob

    Okay, Christmas is over… can we strike this crap from our dialog for another 10 months please?

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

      Personally, I would like to keep the spirit of Saturnalia alive in our hearts all year long! :-)

      • Quintin van Zuijlen

        You can celebrate Carne Vale in late winter if you must. You might be familiar with the Brazilian variant, but most so called “Catholic” areas of Europe are also well known for their Carnivals, often with multiple traditions existing within a single country

      • A3Kr0n

        I do too, but Saturnalia is becoming so commercialized these days!

    • Artor

      Do you think that will top Xtian bigots from breaking laws?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I like the slogan. It has a light, zany touch.

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      Nice looking banner, too!

  • Ibis3

    Hmm. How about “Keep the Sun in Sunday”?

    • Jacob

      Christians do that already. Moved the Sabbath to Sunday, Easter “sunrise service” is from the pagan ritual, halos around Christ’s head are sun disks, solar wheels everywhere at the Vatican, etc.

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      I’d rather “Keep the Thor in Thursday”. Makes the point a little better.

    • almost.chris

      Keep the Yule in Yuletide.

  • machintelligence

    I prefer Keep Thor in Thursday, but I guess it’s all a matter of taste.

    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      I think you’re better of asking to keep Wotan in Wednesday, at least there has been a successful attempt to take it out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    Do the Knights of Columbus not maintain meeting spaces out east? Here, every town has a “KC Hall.” Ours has sports fields and a large front lawn/parking area that would easily fit the biggest creche any Chinese factory could reasonably be expected to manufacture.

  • C Peterson

    It may seem silly, but this is a clear-cut rejection of non-theistic claims in favor of religious ones.

    Saturnalia is a religious festival, so this isn’t a case of religious claims being favored over non-theistic claims, but of one religion being favored over another.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1353603101 Joe Montoto

    Keep the Alda in Yalda! (with a pic of Hawkeye Pierce)

  • DougI

    No doubt Christians are claiming persecution if other groups get the same privileges as they do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bellamy Frank Bellamy

    If the problem is allowing one message and not its opposition, isn’t the legal argument that that is viewpoint discrimination? And hence a violation of the free speech clause, not the establishment clause?

  • WB

    Yes lets have a holiday about a dude who ate his children. By all means.

  • Nick

    My god, an atheist banner that doesn’t look like it was designed in two minutes in MS Word by an English major??????