Atheist flag flies next to Ten Commandments monument in New Hampshire as ‘proof of tolerance’

Atheist flag flies next to Ten Commandments monument in New Hampshire as ‘proof of tolerance’
An atheist flag will fly next to the Ten Commandments monument, representing "proof of tolerance for all beliefs," in Somersworth, New Hampshire. (Image source: WMUR-TV video screenshot)

An atheist flag will fly next to the Ten Commandments monument in Somersworth, New Hampshire, through Feb. 9 when an Olympic flag replaces it in support of Team USA, New Hampshire Public Radio reported. 

The city’s mayor told NPR that the blue flag with a large “A,” donated by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, raised Tuesday on the Citizen’s Place flagpole represents “proof of tolerance for all beliefs.”

“‘We the People’ means just that. We the Christians and the Jews. We the Caucasians, African Americans, Latinos and Asians. We the gays and straight. We the rich and poor. We the men and women. We the believers and non-believers,” Mayor Dana Hilliard said during a ceremony at city hall recognizing January as Diversity and Tolerance Month in Somersworth, according to the Union Leader.

What’s the story?

Hilliard, the city’s first gay mayor who will soon begin his third term, came up with the idea of placing a flagpole at Citizen’s Place where residents can request to fly a flag that represents Somersworth’s diversity.

The concept came as a compromise to those pressuring the city to move a Ten Commandments monument after it either fell or got knocked over last summer. The large religious marker that looks like two large concrete tablets has stood on the public property since the 1950s. Officials agreed to re-erect the monument and place two flagpoles — one on either side of it, one that flies the city’s official flag, and the other for flags that honor the city’s diversity.

Any resident or local organization that supports democratic views can request a turn at the flagpole, Hilliard told the Union Leader.

Richard Gagnon, an atheist who opposed allowing the Ten Commandments monument to reside on city property, said during an interview with NPR that he accepted the city’s decision, but that’s why he asked for a turn at the flagpole.

“The city wants to celebrate diversity, and I don’t think it can get much more diverse than putting an atheist flag over the Ten Commandments,” said Gagnon, a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

In March, Irish and Greek flags will fly for St. Patrick’s Day and Greek Independence Day, the Union Leader reported.