The city of Eugene, Oregon has long had a free-for-all policy when it comes to banners over downtown streets. Last year, one of those banners was explicitly religious with the words “Christmas” and “Jesus” and the phrases “Attend a Church of Your Choice” and “Celebrate His Birth.”
All of that was fine. Whoever put it up played by the rules and paid the fee. An atheist threatened to sue over the matter, but he never had a case. If atheists wanted a banner in the city, they just had to go through the same process.
Now they have. If you’re driving through Eugene now, you’ll see this banner courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation:
A large banner spans 30 feet by 4 feet and stretches across 11th Avenue. The display contains the message:“Celebrate the Solstice. TIS THE SEASON OF REASON.”
The Winter Solstice, occurring this year on Dec. 21, is the shortest, darkest day of the year, signaling the rebirth of the sun and the natural new year. It’s been celebrated for millennia with festivals of light, feasts, gift exchanges and the display of evergreens, which symbolize enduring life, and, FFRF maintains, is the true “reason for the season.”
Charles Jones, the organizer of the Eugene Atheist Pub Social and local FFRF member who helped get this banner up, says the total cost was $750 for printing the banner, paying city workers to put it up, and $500,000 worth of insurance. It’ll remain up until December 27.
Jones added that he plans to do it again next year too, but only if there’s a religious-themed banner also up. (If there’s something to respond to, he’ll do it, but he’d rather not see any banners like these up at all.)