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Atheists Set Up Display at Fla.'s Capitol Building to Combat Nativity Scene

A major atheist group unveiled its own nonreligious holiday monument at Florida's capitol building in response to the recent installment of a nativity scene.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is hanging a secular banner at the state's capitol building in Tallahassee. The banner is reportedly a spoof on the classic nativity scene of Jesus in the manger. Instead of Jesus, there is a Bill of Rights laid in a manger with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Statue of Liberty gazing admiringly at the slip of paper. The banner reads in part: "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 banner is being hung in response to a nativity scene recently erected at the state's capitol building by the private Florida Nativity Scene Committee. The Capitol building is open to any group that wants to put up a display for the holidays, as long as they are first approved by the Department of Management Services. Another group has already put up a giant menorah to recognize the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. The displays are all privately funded, and they include a disclaimer nearby that asserts the state's government does not support any one religion.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation said in a statement to the Associated Press that her group has chosen to put up the banner to combat the nativity scene. "We don't think there should be religion or irreligion in any state Capitol, but if they're going to start allowing religion and call it a public forum then certainly the non-religious point of view should be there, too."

 According to NBC Miami, the nativity scene set up at the Capitol's Rotunda building on Tuesday included an event with a children's choir singing Christmas carols, and a community prayer. Another group, Reclaim Christ for Christmas, will reportedly be contributing to the display by adding the Three Wise Men to the nativity scene.

Pam Olsen, the organizer behind Tuesday's nativity scene event, told The Florida Current that she believes Christmas is under attack in the nation. "We're fighting for religious freedom for this younger generation. Religious freedoms are under attack in our nation," Olsen said. The organizer added that the American Nativity Scene Committee placed a similar display at the Illinois Capitol building, and she "[hopes] that some day we will have one in every state capitol."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has also placed "Winter Solstice" displays at other state capitol buildings, including one in Illinois that shows a "Winter Solstice" sign trumpeting "reason" over the "myth and superstition" of religion. Another display at Wisconsin's capitol building shows a similar sign accompanying a "natural nativity" that depicts Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Mark Twain, among others.

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