An atheist banner in posted in a public park in Streator, Illinois, is gaining a fair amout of attention and creating quite a bit of controversy. The banner, which reads, "Nobody died for your sins. Jesus Christ is a myth," comes as Americans -- and the global community -- celebrate what many believe to be Christ's death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist group that frequently engages in offensive tactics to rail against what its member see as unfair government endorsements of religion, is responsible for this sign. The group sought permission to post the eight-foot by three-foot banner in Streator's City Park after another group posted a Christian sign and crosses.
MyWebTimes.com has more about the FFRF's battle over religious displays:
The national church watchdog organization [FFRF] said it placed the banner in Streator on behalf of a local resident's request to counter the Christian display that has been on the city property since early March. City officials permitted both displays.
This is the fifth year in a row the Streator Freedom Association has displayed the Christian crosses in the park around Easter time.
"We think the city would be wise to exclude all displays from the park,"said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president.
"Our banner is a protest of the city's continued decision to permit public property to be misappropriated to promote an exclusionary evangelical message. There are tax-free churches on practically every other corner where manger scenes and crosses may be placed. City parks ought to be free of religious divisiveness."
City Manager Paul Nicholson spoke out about the incident, claiming that the city was in a position where it had to allow both banners to be present, as the park is a public forum.
"There are First Amendment issues at hand and the city cannot discriminate against anyone wishing to put up a display," he explained. "I suspect the City Council will review its policy in the next few weeks on expressions of positions, both religious and secular on city property."
Currently, the SFA has three wooded crosses and a sign posted, not far from the FFRF's anti-Easter message that reads, "Jesus died for your sins."
And while Gaylor hopes to strip religious groups of the right to use the property to display their messages, SFA President Ed Entwistle is defending his atheist group's messaging.
"I just want everybody to have the same rights," he explained. "As long as it's permitted, I have no problem with it. I may not agree with what it says, but that's why we are blessed to live in the country we live in today where we have these freedoms."
The FFRF has permission to display its anti-Jesus Christ banner until April 13. The group has pledged to, once again, post the sign next year if the city continues to allow religious displays.
(H/T: The Times)