A recently released YouTube video shows atheists and Christians sparring in Daley Plaza, Chicago, shortly before a Christian group unfurls a banner that reads "A is for Angels" in front of an eight-foot tall, lit up "A," a symbol erected by the Freedom From Religion Foundation meant to stand for "atheist" or "agnostic."
The atheist organization's symbol had been approved by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to sit in the city's Daley Plaza along with other holiday symbols, such as a giant Christmas tree, a menorah and a life-size nativity scene. In response, members of the Remember America Foundation, a Christian group, unveiled its own "A" banner last week at the city's annual German-American holiday market, Christkindlmarket Chicago.
Remember America Foundation Chairman William Kelly is shown in a YouTube video speaking at Daley Plaza as his group unveils the "A is for Angels" banner over the FFRF display. Kelly explains to those present at the protest last week that he doesn't believe Daley Plaza is the proper place for an atheist display, and therefore his group is trying to make the "A" symbol a positive one by changing its meaning from "atheists" to "angels."
"People don't quite understand what the 'A' stands for and when I tell them it stands for 'atheist,' they think it's in the wrong place and the wrong time. So what we've decided to do here today is to do something positive and make the 'A' stand for angels. As Christians, especially at Christmas time, we want to have a positive message of love. We want to pray for the atheists. We want to turn their 'A' into an 'A' for angels,'" Kelly says in the video.
The Remember America Foundation, according to its official website, produces "programming for a wide range of ages, interests, and genres – all with a mind to conveying America's unique cultural and historical traditions and discovering solutions through informed discussion in the public policy arena."
When asked if he thought the Freedom From Religion Foundation's "A" display was a form of hate speech, Kelly responded: "The Daley Plaza/Christmas market is a place where families bring their children. They want to see a tree. They want to see a manger and then they come upon the atheist sign that says that Christianity or religion has produced nothing but war, hatred, and disease. That, to me, is hate speech."
The YouTube video also includes a few hecklers who have gathered in front of the Remember America Foundation's demonstration to protest the unfurling of the Christian banner, arguing that the Freedom From Religion Foundation has the constitutional right to display their "A" symbol, and the display should not be blocked by another banner.
"You shouldn't be protesting the 'A.' Protesting the 'A' means you are surrendering our freedom of speech," yelled one heckler. "Everybody should have their opportunity to speak here!" Christian protesters at the event shouted back by arguing that they too have the right to freedom of speech and therefore they can unfurl their banner wherever they want.
The original "A" symbol included the 8-foot-tall lit up red "A" and an accompanying sign that read: "At this season of the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the birth of the Unconquered Sun – the TRUE reason for the season. As Americans, let us also honor the birth of our Bill of Rights, which reminds us there can be no freedom OF religion, without having freedom FROM religion in government."
Chairman Kelly said in a press release that he believes his group has performed a "Christmas miracle" by erecting the "A is for Angels" sign over the FFRF display.
"Today, we have performed a Christmas miracle. We have transformed the 'A for atheist" sign, approved by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, into an 'A for angels' sign. In the spirit of the holiday season, we will meet the hate-filled atheist displays with a message of love and a prayer for peace. We are calling on all people of faith to respond to these atheist displays with their own 'A is for Angels' displays."