A “Keep Christ in Christmas” sign in a New Jersey borough has sparked a two-year fight over church-state separatism — one that has led the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a secular activist group, to post a holiday response on a nearby billboard.
The alternative sign, which was posted on Dec. 12 and reads, “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia,” is clearly meant to poke fun at the Christ-centered sentiment advocated in the Knights of Columbus sign that hangs in Pitman, N.J.
Saturnalia may be unfamiliar to some, but it was an ancient festival celebrated in Rome in honor of the god Saturnus — a holiday that essentially is no longer observed. This festival, which was celebrated on Dec. 17, is credited with having an influence on modern-day Christmas festivities.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has debated with the borough in the past and claimed that the locality has “shown favoritism to Christianity while censoring nonbelievers.”
Now, the group is joining in with its own brand of holiday cheer.
As TheBlaze reported back in 2011, there’s a complex history surrounding the debate between the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Knights of Columbus.
“FFRF and its local members were stonewalled in December 2012 by borough officials who denied FFRF a permit to display ‘Keep Saturn in Saturnalia’ even though the Knights of Columbus banner was allowed,” read a press release announcing the new billboard. “The banner’s traditional spot is downtown above Broadway Avenue, where it’s strung by firefighters.”
The debate touched off in 2011 when “unnamed residents” contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation and complained that the “Keep Christ in Christmas” banner violates the constitution.
The group asked the town to remove the sign in 2011, with Andrew Seidel, an attorney with the atheist organization, claiming that the banner should not hang over the town’s Main Street.
“It’s a group endorsing religion over a public right of way,” he said at the time.
The town’s mayor, Michael Batten, though, didn’t agree.
“I think it’s a sad state of affairs that our country, we kowtow to the minority and not the majority of people who like that sort of thing to stay,” Batten said, claiming that the sign is affixed to private property and merely hangs in the public square.
The Knights of Columbus have reportedly hung their banner for nearly 50 years and they continue to.
Featured image via Freedom From Religion Foundation
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