For the fourth straight year, downtown Chicago’s Daley Plaza is home to a couple of 8-foot-tall banners promoting separation of church and state:
The displays are sponsored by the Metropolitan Chicago chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation who have done something similar for the past three years. It all comes in response to a Catholic group’s display honoring Jesus:
One banner reads, “In Reason We Trust,” and pictures Thomas Jefferson, highlighting his famous advice to a nephew: “Question with boldness even the existence of a god.” The other side proclaims, “Keep State & Religion Separate,” and pictures President John Adams, who signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which assured “… the government of the United States is not in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
The FFRF display is designed to balance a period of prayer and evangelism in Daley Plaza by a Catholic group, the Thomas More Society, that has preached in the plaza every Easter since 2011. The group’s aim, through its “Divine Mercy Project,” is to seek the “conversion of Chicago, America and the whole world.”
The Thomas More Society’s Catholic shrine, including a large wooden Latin cross, a 9-foot banner of Jesus, and “kneelers” for people to pray, also went up on Thursday. Worship services will reportedly be held on the Plaza for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In past years, Catholic supporters have also held 24-hour prayer vigils, distributed thousands of prayer cards and hosted anti-abortion rallies in front of the Jesus painting.
Rather than place such displays on church grounds, the Thomas More Society explicitly seeks to take over public property for its purposes, claiming that at Daley Plaza it encounters “militants, feminists, Satanists, radical Muslims, just about everybody.”
And just to hammer home the point that they’re not trying to convert anybody — they just want to provide an alternative point of view in the public square — the atheists also have these “disclaimer” signs near the banners:
In 2014, the Catholic display was vandalized. It’s unclear who did it, but FFRF immediately condemned the actions.
This isn’t the FFRF Metropolitan Chicago chapter’s first foray into public advertising. For a couple of years now, they’ve been putting up a giant Scarlet A display in the same plaza during Christkindlmarket.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)