Seattle Atheists Want a Sign in the Washington State Capitol Building December 7, 2009

Seattle Atheists Want a Sign in the Washington State Capitol Building

The Freedom From Religion Foundation put this sign up in the state Capitol building in Olympia, Washington last year:

After all the controversy last year, the state government decided no displays for/against any religion would be allowed at all inside the capitol building. It was the right move. Unfortunately, they’re still allowing displays outside, on the grounds of the building.

So far, only a Jewish group and an atheist group have applied — no Christian groups.

The atheist group in question is Seattle Atheists. They explain what they’re doing in this press release:

Seattle Atheists has applied for a permit to display a sign on the state capitol grounds from Dec. 12 to Dec. 29, 2009. The sign will read: “In this holiday season let us remember that kindness, charity and goodwill transcend belief, creed or religion. Happy Holidays, Seattle Atheists”

Last year, the Wisconsin organization, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), displayed a sign in the capitol rotunda which read, “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” Seattle Atheists shares [many] opinions with the FFRF regarding the separation of church and state, and about the harm [that] can be done in the cause of religious belief. However, we feel that the message was needlessly provocative and inappropriate for the context of the capitol rotunda.

If their permit is rejected and any religious one is approved, you can bet there will be lawsuits flying all over the place.

Good luck to them and their application!

(Thanks to Amanda for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Eddie

    How offensive! Atheists have NO RIGHT to wish me happiness during the holidays. Take it down!!!!

  • I agree with Seattle Atheists – the FFRF sign was simply too inflammatory to post in a state capitol. It’s the same reason that I prefer AU to FFRF. I just think that the FFRF’s tactics are inappropriate and they pick the wrong battles to fight.

    I like the Seattle Atheists’ sign though. It sends the right message and was the right way to go.

  • I have to agree that holiday-season messages should be positive rather than negative or confrontational in nature. Talk up peace on earth, human fraternity, the joys of knowledge and freethought, etc. Leave out “Religion is silly, dangerous and bad” — we’ve got eleven other months in which to bang that drum ;-).

  • Richard Wade

    I’m glad that the new message is positive and warm-hearted. Even so, bets are being placed on how long the sign will be there before being stolen or vandalized. The average estimate so far is 0.00015 second.

    If the Jewish and atheist displays are out there, then a Christian display will surely follow, and then the rest of the belief zoo. Nothing will have changed, except that the displays will be water resistant.

  • Revyloution

    Hrm, this one seems a bit pro-active for my tastes. If we non-believers want religion kept out of the public sphere, we should be more reactive.

    This reminds me more of the Bush search for WMD’s. Were tossing out signs in anticipation of DMC’s (Displays for Mass Consumption) even though we don’t see any there. Just because there was a nativity scene last year, doesn’t mean there will be one this year.

    I think we would be better served if we waited for the menorah, or the cross to be approved before applying for a protest sign.

  • If they grant the permit and turn down a Christian one would the Christians sue?

  • Revyloution

    If they grant the permit and turn down a Christian one would the Christians sue?

    Does an Ursidae defecate in the coniferous biome?

  • CatBallou

    I like it. It doesn’t make a statement about religion vs. atheism; instead, it promotes universal (sort of!) values.

  • Neon Genesis

    I also like this sign better than the FFRF one. It’s more of a raising awareness sign and more positive, but you just know Fox News and O’Reiley will find some reason to complain about how evil the sign is and how atheist are out to take away the Judea-Christian values of America.

  • flatlander100

    A much better message, for this season or any season.

  • To be honest, I would like it a lot better if you took out the last word of it, “atheists”. I think it’s a message anyone can believe and enjoy regardless of their religion, so why limit it to just the atheists in seattle? It’s more humanistic than anything else, and promotes a “we all can be happy” message, so limiting it to just atheists at the end seems slightly counter-intuitive. Still like it a lot regardless though! Good holiday spirit.

  • Joffan

    Franklin, I think the last two words are just the “signature”. The group looking to place the sign is the Seattle Atheists. The good wishes are addressed to everyone.

    Well, I quite like the wording. I hope the artwork is better than the FFRF sign too.

  • Richard Wade

    Franklin, I think that the way the words are arranged on the sign will affect their apparent meaning. The way the words are quoted here may not be the way they are arranged on the final sign.

    If the last words are arranged like this,

    Happy Holidays, Seattle Atheists

    then it appears like it might be wishing happy holidays only to the Seattle Atheists, and I don’t think that is what they intend.

    If the last words are arranged like this,

    Happy Holidays,

    Seattle Atheists

    Then the meaning is clearer that they are wishing happy holidays to everyone and anyone reading the message, and they are simply identifying themselves at the end, like signing a letter.

    I hope it it arranged that way when and if it comes out in public.

    Happy Holidays,

    Richard Wade

  • Richard Wade

    Ah, Joffan beat me to it with a simpler explanation. Good.

    Happy Holidays,

    Richard Wade

  • Shannon

    Oh, I like that one much better! Very positive but gets the point across. I like it! 😀

  • muggle

    Once again, I find myself utterly agreeing with Revyloution. Why are we putting them up before the others? I thought the point was to make a point that the public square isn’t the proper forum for spouting religous views.

    Also, so “nice” of them to point fingers at other atheists whose previous actions enable them to even make this stand. Yes, their sign is much nicer but the fact of the matter is that if FFRF’s had been this nice, they wouldn’t be able to be so magnamous now. It was FFRF that made their point for them. I guess they thank them for it by throwing them under the bus.

    Of course, they seem to miss that point. They seem to think the point was the public square is the proper platform to preach about “God” or against “God”. Shaking my head. The hypocrites!

  • Revyloution

    Once again, I find myself utterly agreeing with Revyloution.

    It’s the hat. It confers instant authority.

    I always say “Men don’t wear enough good hats.”

  • martin

    I am all for being proactive. If we just constantly react, it makes us look like we don’t have any reason being atheists except to shut down religion. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong with religious groups having signs on public federally funded property, as long as all groups and beliefs are given equal oppurtunity.
    Also, being proactive helps the reason for many of these signs which is not to attack religion, but to let other atheist know they are not alone, and let everyone know, religion isn’t needed to lead a good life.

    (also us having the sign up first means they can’t say that we are attacking them and their rights when they end up attacking ours, because some fundamentalist Christian is sure to start complaining)

  • Revyloution

    Martin, I thought thats what the bus campaigns were for.

    I was dragged into this fight because of people pushing religion into government. I don’t want pluralism in my government, I want secularism. If we offer a true open market for ideas in our State capitols, it will look like a tacky new age fair. If they allow the atheists, they have to allow the Christians, and the Muslims, and the Jains, and the Crystal wearing naval gazers, and the Hari Krishna’s, and the Scientologists, etc…

    I still think the ideal is a government that deals only with hard facts when creating laws. A government that remains neutral on the topic of faith and religion. That itself might be a pipe dream fantasy, but I can still dream.

    By being the first to put our philosophy on state property, were the ones opening the door. I had hoped that we were the ones working to close the door of state to the influence of faith.

  • muggle

    It must be the hat. Either that or great minds think alike. 🙂

    Martin, that was I was thinking when I read your answer. The bus ads and billboards are for that purpose. Making public property a free-for-all is going to wind up a huge mess and being of a minority viewpoint it really isn’t in our best interest to encourage soapboxes by the score when we’ll wind up out-numbered and shouted down.

  • Amanda

    Our permit was approved, and we’re putting it up on Saturday. We do have replacement signs, so I hope it doesn’t get stolen. Olympia’s an hour drive for me. In response to Richard’s musing, it is like this:

    Happy Holidays,
    Seattle Atheists

    Thank you for your support, everyone!!!!! 🙂

  • Amanda


    If we could have done this last year, we would have. It just wasn’t possible at the time.

    We worded it that way because no matter what we say, people are going to take offense at it because of who puts it up. If the FFRF’s sign had simply said “Hi,” there would have been a similar response. This is a way for us to remind people that there are certain things that are (hopefully) universal and these things have nothing to do with religion. It’s also a way for us, a local group, not a national organization, to be able to have a voice in our own state capitol, and to keep atheism in the public eye with some degree of positivity. We caught a lot of heat for the sign last year, as well as the billboards this year, and we all though it was a one step forward, two steps back scenario.

    We all understand what the FFRF is trying to do, and generally support their efforts — the ultimate goal is the removal of all religious displays from government property — but we don’t always agree with their methods, and I don’t think we need to. It’s part of the fantastic part about atheism, that we have no pope, no all-powerful organization that dictates what we do.

    Seattle Atheists is a completely volunteer-run organization, so from year to year, you’ll have a different board with different views, so we’re not a monolithic organization. The board was unanimous on this wording for the sign, and felt it was the message that needed to be sent in order for us to regain the ground that we felt was lost last year.

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