Florida’s Capitol Rotunda is getting more and more crowded after the Florida Prayer Network, a Christian group, successfully petitioned to have a nativity display placed on government property.
The traditional Christmas image is now being counterbalanced by other groups — including atheist and Satanist organizations — who wish to add their voices to the space during the holiday season.
Already a few secular organizations have had their banners and displays approved by the The Florida Department of Management Services, though the Satanic Temple of Tallahassee, a group wishing to put a 5-foot-by-5-foot poster up in the same area, reportedly hasn’t yet been given final approval to do so.
The Orlando Sentinel reported this week that numerous atheist messages are already being juxtaposed against the traditional nativity imagery.
The Tallahassee Atheists have requested a 4-foot-by-5-foot sign that reads “Happy Holidays”; it also proclaims that there are “many reasons for the season.” A local affiliate for American Atheists, another secular group, wants its own poster heralding “the true meaning of Xmas.”
And the Freedom From Religion Foundation, one of the nation’s most well-known atheist activist groups, also has a banner that says “Happy Winter Solstice,” with an image of the Founding Fathers and the Statue of Liberty worshiping the Bill of Rights.
But that’s not all.
And then there’s the Satanist display, which there is currently little information on aside from the fact that it has reportedly been requested by the local Satanic Temple; there’s no telling if or when it will be approved.
So, why are all these groups and individuals trying to counter the nativity?
“This is about separation of church and state,” Stevens told NPR of his display. “The government shouldn’t be in this business of allowing the mixture of church and state.”
It’s clear from the reaction of those behind some of these displays that the intent is to dilute the traditional Christmas message. Considering that Florida’s Capitol Rotunda is a public forum, the government is compelled to allow all petitions and permits for displays during the holiday season.
“When a religious group seeks to co-opt the power and the prestige of the government for their religious message, the best way to dilute that co-opting of the power and prestige is to put up our own message,” Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel told NPR.
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Featured image via WCTV-TV