An atheist nativity scene has been erected in one Indiana town, and the reactions to it have been pretty accepting, for the most part. Fox 25 News reports that the non-Christian nativity display has been placed in open land next to the Franklin County Courthouse.
Based out of Wisconsin, The Freedom From Religion Foundation fought to have the display erected next to a Christian display in attempts at not only enforcing the separation of church and state, but to show seasonal festivity for nonbelievers, instead of just religious folks. Jim Helton, representing Tristate Freethinkers, was also in on the action. He provided a statement explaining the atheist display.
“Christianity was giving a very specific one-sided viewpoint by the government, which we felt was unfair. And the reason we chose the Bill of Rights is on December 15th. That’s when the Bill of Rights was ratified, which gave us freedom of speech, and it also gave us freedom from religion.”
The display itself is nothing offensive. In fact, it’s simply a depiction of the signing of the Bill of Rights. Instead of being blatantly religious in nature, it is simply a patriotic theme to remind people of the rights that every single American possesses.
— #SeriousPickle (@BeEtLjOoZ) December 1, 2015
— Jen (@KurliQJen) December 1, 2015
While many people appear to be accepting of this nativity scene on social media, there are actual residents of Fairfield Township, Indiana, who feel that the display is a slap in the face of their beliefs. One resident identified as Jim Frazee, told Fox 45 News that he has a problem with outsiders playing a role in something like this.
“I don’t mind that everybody has a chance to display what they believe, but the problem I have is when outside groups come in and try to dictate to the local community what they should have on display and not. There is an irony here. They’re trying to make themselves look patriotic, but our founding fathers believed in prayer, and they believed that God was overseeing the founding of our country, and that’s what I believe as well.”
It should be noted that at least one of America’s founding fathers was a Deist, including George Washington, who was reportedly “widely tolerant of other beliefs.” So with that logic applied to the situation, the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s atheist nativity scene is a patriotic piece that should unite everyone in the Indiana town — and not just people from a select religious belief.
Even though FFRF has been victorious in being able to place their nativity scene, it should also be reminded that atheist holiday displays are notoriously targeted with vandalism and theft. In 2014, Reuters reported that atheists have seen their displays vandalized on multiple occasions. Five out of a dozen displays were either vandalized or stolen in 2012. In 2013, two out of 14 were vandalized. An atheistic banner was put up in Chicago, and once each in 2013 and 2014 the banner was vandalized. Authorities still haven’t found the culprit, even though a reward is being offered.
In March of this year, charges were dropped against a woman who attacked a Satanic display in Florida. The 54-year-old Tea Party activist wore a shirt that read the words “Catholic warrior” at the time of her mugshot, which gained attention on social media. She showed no remorse for what she had done, and admitted it openly. Still, she was not prosecuted for the crime, to the anger of many.
Do you support atheist nativity scenes?
Editor’s note: a previous version of this story misidentified the location as Franklin County, Ohio, based on multiple sources.