If you visit the County-City Building in South Bend, Indiana, you’re going to see this pleasant holiday display… that will either put a smile or frown on your face after you read what it actually says:
The sign, reading “Oh come all ye faithless” and (on the other side) “Even Heathens Celebrate the Season!,” was sponsored by the Northern Indiana Atheists. They took advantage of a policy, generally used to promote Nativity scenes, that allows outside groups to sponsor displays in the government building during the holidays.
Considering the relatively small size and relative inoffensiveness of the display, it shouldn’t have been all that controversial, but it actually took a lot of work to get that sign up:
The group said it submitted a request to the county Board of Commissioners for the display a year ago, but it encountered roadblocks.
Troy Moss, the group’s president, said the request was initially ignored. After several phone calls, the group learned in March that the request was being reviewed by an attorney. Then, in late August, an attorney requested an image of the display. No objections, however, were raised after the image was submitted.
“I can’t say if those roadblocks were intentional, or if it was just us not using the system the right way,” Moss said.
I’m not sure why it took that long but city officials said all the right things to local media, explaining that the open forum means all displays must be approved (within reason, of course).
Moss plans to add on to this one:
The group said its display will later be flanked by a Bill of Rights “nativity” scene from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. That scene depicts founding fathers George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, along with the Statue of Liberty and Bill of Rights.
As you might expect, this whole idea of religious neutrality by the government is rubbing some citizens the wrong way because they think December is owned by Christians and everyone else should just shut the hell up if their displays don’t celebrate Jesus.
While some Christians are complaining that other groups are exercising the same rights they have, the atheists are taking it all in stride. In fact, the Northern Indiana Atheists and the Michiana Skeptics are focusing on raising money for families in need so they can get presents over the holidays.
Whatever the reason for the season, the atheists seem to get it. Maybe the complaining Christians could learn a lesson from them.