The Iowa State Capitol, which allows a Nativity scene in the rotunda, is now home to a couple of displays from local atheists who are making use of the free-for-all public forum. While the “Secular Nativity” has been placed there before, it’s the first time we’ve seen an explicitly atheist sign in the same area.
Justin Scott, the Iowa state director for American Atheists, said the goal is to promote inclusion:
The American Atheists banner reads, “This season, no matter what you celebrate or why, Happy Holidays! (From) your atheist neighbors.” It joins a display created by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and sponsored by Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers that features the founding fathers looking down on the Bill of Rights in a manger. This will mark the first time in statehouse history that two atheist/secular displays have stood together over the holidays.
“The holidays are a special time, but too often, non religious Iowans and those of minority faiths can feel left out,” said Scott. “We hope visitors to the statehouse read our banner and leave feeling welcome regardless of their beliefs.”
Scott told me that all these displays are supposed to include a disclaimer that they’re not “maintained, promoted, supported, or associated with the State of Iowa.” That’s perfectly fine, but the Nativity scene appeared to be hiding its disclaimer by printing it in small font and almost hiding it away in the back. When he asked someone at the Capitol about that, he was told the sign would be moved to the front so everyone could see it. (Nice.)
I imagine everyone who sees the signs will celebrate their inclusion and totally not make a big deal about this. Right? Right. We’ll see.