A national organization that promotes nontheism erected an "A," which stands for "atheist" and "agnostic," in Chicago's Daley Plaza on Tuesday near the place where a life-sized Nativity scene will be set up later this week.
The light-up "A" is more than eight feet tall and was placed there by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the group's Metropolitan Chicago Chapter, according to an FFRF press release.
The symbol stands next to a banner that depicts the Bill of Rights in a manger and shows Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and the Statue of Liberty looking at the document with adoration. The image also shows an emblem shining on the Bill of Rights that says, "Freethought: Secular Government."
"At this season of the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the birth of the Unconquered Sun - the TRUE reason for the season," the banner reads. "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."
The giant "A" was erected on the first day of the 18th annual Christkindlmarket Chicago, an outdoor German-American market that is set up on Daley Plaza and will be open through Christmas Eve. FFRF says it has a permit for the display that lasts through the end of the month.
"The real reason for the season is the Winter Solstice, the darkest, shortest day of the year, a time for celebration for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere because it signified the rebirth of the sun," Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, said in a statement. "For a fact, the Christians stole Christmas. We don't mind sharing the season with them, but we don't like their pretense that it is the birthday of Jesus."
Ed O'Malley, president of American Nativity Scene and one of the people who organizes the set up for the Chicago crèche, told The Christian Post the Nativity scene will be erected in Daley Plaza on Saturday and will stay there until after Christmas.
"I think other groups, obviously, have different beliefs. But our message is simple. We try to keep it simple, that we just recognize the true meaning of Christmas and the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ," said O'Malley, who at the time of the interview had not yet seen FFRF's display in person.
Each year a group of craftsman known as the "God Squad" donates their time and skills to set up the Nativity scene. The group first set up a Nativity scene in Daley Plaza in 1985 after the city decided not to appeal a court decision that ended the tradition of setting up a Nativity scene in the city hall lobby, according to an article written by Terrance Hodges of the Chicago Nativity Scene Committee.
For the sixth straight year a Nativity scene will also be set up in the Illinois State Capitol Rotunda in Springfield, according to a press release from the Chicago-based Thomas More Society. The Capitol Rotunda, like the Daley Plaza, is considered a traditional public forum and is open to public expression.
A nativity scene opening celebration will take place in the rotunda on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 at noon.