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Nativity Scene Shares Picket-Fenced Free Speech Area at North School Park with Freedom from Religion Foundation

Sun December 23 2012 4:41 pm
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A “Freedom from Religion Foundation” banner popped up Friday, December 21, 2012 next to the Nativity Scene at North School Park.

Face north in the northwest corner of North School Park and you’ll see two messages: The Gospel symbolized by the birth of Christ as Saviour in a Nativity Scene with hope for peace and good will upon men (and women too), which is on the left. On the right is the message from the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), “There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth & superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” The opening day for the Nativity Scene was celebrated on Saturday, December 15, 2012. The FFRF Chicago Chapter placed their banner next to the Nativity Scene on Friday, December 21, 2012.

“Solstice is the ‘reason for the season’ in Arlington Heights”
The Illinois Nativity Scene Committee (INSC) urged the Arlington Heights Park District to incorporate a nativity scene into the park’s annual holiday display back in November, but was initially refused. The Park District has displayed secular light displays that feature holiday toys, a Santa Claus, a Dreidel (a common Jewish toy this time of year) and a Christmas Tree, but the Village of Arlington Heights and the Arlington Heights Park District labels the tree a “holiday tree” — a decorated pine tree placed in the center of North School Park. The Thomas More Society represented the INSC, claiming that federal law and the Constitution protects freedom of expression of religion in a public square. The park district apparently agreed, and permitted the Nativity Scene with a disclaimer.

This Publicly Owned Property is a Public Forum for the Expression of Constitutionally Protected Free Speech. The Arlington Heights Park District does not Sponsor, Finance, or endorse these Expressions.

— Arlington Heights Park District North School Park Sign

At a celebration of the Nativity Scene as a visual representation of the Gospel, which was presented by local religious leaders Rev. Bill Zavaski, pastor of Saint James Catholic Church and Rev. Calvin Lindstrom of Christian Liberty Academy; Atheist Rob Sherman also celebrated the proper negotiations with the government for agreement about the display, the proper recognition of the First Amendment , and the example set here in Arlington Heights that Christians and atheists can be friends despite “theological differences.” He complimented the display with its proper notice by the Arlington Heights Park District and the separation of the religious display from the secular displays at the park.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is a little more adherent to their namesake, however; rejecting the placement of the Nativity Scene at a public place. FFRF doesn’t want the Nativity Scene place there, and to protest places their banner adjacent to the unwanted religious displays.

“It is our hope that one day government spaces will be free from religious — or irreligious — displays, but until then we will do our best to counter these unlawful displays and remind passersby (sic) of the ‘real reason for the season’ — the Winter Solstice.”

— FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor

The FFRF press release claims that the reason for the season is the Winter Solstice with no mention of the tradition of Christmas as a celebration at this time of year.

Nativity Scene on the left and the Freedom from Religion Banner on the right.

Interesting video (unedited) by a third party showing an interview by Fox News interviewer Jesse Watters at a Freedom from Religion Foundation rally in March 2012.

Jesse Watters interviews are comedy productions that mix interview responses with movie and television clips taken in or out of context, and are known as Watters’ World (See the video ‘Watters World’ goes to an atheist rally). The interview compilation is followed by a question and answer discussion between Bill O’Reilly and Jesse Walters. In the follow-up regarding the atheist rally, Watters claims the crowd was lukewarm toward him with a few rabble rousers trying to get under his skin. He described the crowd as mostly Democrats that want more political power and representation in Congress. They were described as hardcore activists that told him they cross out the words “In God We Trust” when they receive money from the ATM. Watters said they believe they are assaulted by Christian political values involving abortion and contraception, for example. Watters claimed about 15 percent of Americans are atheists and mentioned a poll (uncited) that resulted in data that led to a conclusion that a Muslim presidential candidate or a gay presidential candidate would be preferred over an atheist presidential candidate. Watters said there were about 10-20,000 people at the rally, which was a sort of coming out rally to encourage closet atheists to feel comfortable expressing their belief — or non-belief.

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