A "Merry Christmas" sign and a "There is no God" display have been erected side-by-side in the city of Shelton, Connecticut, reflecting a longstanding debate between atheists who say they're expressing their freedom of speech and residents who see anti-Christmas secular signs as an attack on Christianity.
Local news station WFSB reports that Jerry Bloom, the resident who has been trying to get approval to display the atheist sign in Shelton for years, but was not allowed to do so until now, says he's happy that freedom of speech has won.
"We'd like an agreement, they'll continue to honor freedom of speech," Bloom said.
"You've permitted viewpoints to be expressed in this public forum, you cannot deny me the same right, they did," he said. "That's censorship, first amendment violation, freedom of speech."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the secular group behind the sign, celebrated last week when news came out that Shelton will allow the atheist banner to stand.
The banner reads in full: "At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
FFRF Co-President Dan Barker explained back then that the banner in Shelton is meant to counter a Christmas nativity scene.
"If a devotional nativity display is allowed, there must be 'room at the inn' for all points of view, including irreverence and freethought," Barker said.
A "Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays" sign has since been erected right next to the FFRF sign, however, with Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti explaining that he wanted to create balance.
"I don't find anything egregious with what they have on the sign," Lauretti said about the atheist sign. "I can't say I subscribe to that thinking or belief, but in America, we're allowed to express our views."
"Our sign policy largely served nonprofits, fundraisers, benefits, things of that nature," he said, "not necessarily reflecting anyone's philosophical views on life."
Some Shelton residents, such as Carol Tommassetti, explained why they have a problem with the atheist banner.
"Christmas is about the birth of Christ," Tomassetti said. "If you don't want to believe it, don't believe it, but you don't have to promote the fact that there is no God, because a lot of people do believe."
Bloom, meanwhile, said he has no issues with the "Merry Christmas" message being displayed next to his sign.
"I thought that's cute. I mean, I have no problem with it," he responded. "[I] didn't expect it, but good for him (Lauretti)."