Fla. Atheist Erects 'Festivus' Sign Next to Nativity Scene

To protest a 20-year tradition of putting up a Nativity scene every Christmas season in the South Florida town of Deerfield Beach, a local atheist has erected an 8-foot-tall "Festivus" pole with beer cans, just six feet away from where Baby Jesus lies in a manger.

"It's just 23 beer cans stacked 8 feet high and conveniently located 6 feet from Baby Jesus," Sun Sentinel quoted atheist activist and blogger Chaz Stevens as saying.

"Think of how many people have died over the years to give us our freedoms," added Stevens, who installed the sign based on the secular "Festivus" holiday featured on the 1997 "Seinfeld" episode. "So I've got to push back a little."

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"Festivus" is celebrated on Dec. 23. It was created by the father of "Seinfeld" writer Dan O'Keefe as an alternative to the commercial Christmas.

Stevens had been trying unsuccessfully for five years to get the city to stop the Nativity scene. This year, he asked for permission to express his own unreligious beliefs. He said he decided against a more elaborately designed pole that "would not get as much attention" as a low-budget sign comprising Pabst Blue Ribbon cans.

"How to make a statement, without actually making one, was the task at hand," The Daily Caller quoted Stevens as saying. "And it was during my research that I came across a video by Allen Salkin (former reporter of New York Times and author of Festivus: The Holiday For the Rest of Us.

Marc Rohr, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, said the atheist display was an unusual move. "I think the atheists of the world are more interested in preventing religious displays than in joining them," he was quoted as saying. "The city, it sounds like, has decided to say, OK, sure, we're not going to get into deciding what is and what isn't a religion. So we'll treat you the same way we would a religion."

The Rev. Mark Luttio of Zion Lutheran Church and School in Deerfield Beach called the atheist's move "kind of silly."

"It doesn't really represent a very big constituency, does it?" added Luttio, who is also an associate professor at Lynn University. "But if there really was a strong group of people who feel a desire to express something about their identity as atheists, that would be absolutely OK for them to do in a public forum."

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