Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Atheists get their own holiday display

If you can't beat 'em, might as well join 'em.

A Southeastern Pennsylvania atheist group that has tried unsuccessfully for years to prevent public religious displays at Christmas, has decided to try a new tactic.

The atheists, who also failed to have a Ten Commandments monument removed from the Chester County Courthouse, now want to put up their own holiday display next to a Nativity scene, a Menorah and a Christmas tree in West Chester, Pa.

News that The Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia wants to put up its own holiday display was first reported by The Daily Local News in West Chester.

The decision by the Chester County commissioners to permit the atheists to display their "holiday tree" could serve as a seasonal model for other communities, according to reporter Jennifer Miller.

The new policy allows any group to put up a seasonal display on county property if it meets design, insurance and safety requirements.

That's a far cry from what the atheists originally wanted: An outright ban on public displays during the holidays.

"It makes us feel like whole citizens to be able to participate in this way," Margaret Downey, president of the Freethought Society, told the Daily Local News.

The group's display is entitled "The Tree of Knowledge" and it will feature a 15-foot evergreen with color copies of book covers as "ornaments." Some of the book covers will include the Bible, the Quran, "Ethics Without God," "Why I Am Not a Christian," and "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism."

I've heard of the first two books. Not familiar with the atheist tomes.

Chester County's new policy allows qualified applicants to set up a display between Nov. 30 and Jan. 15. The deadline to apply for a display has already passed, so the atheists are the only new addition to the outdoor display this year.

"If this works here, we're going to encourage other Freethought groups to do the same," Downey told the Daily Local News.

The county received four applications, and all were approved. In addition to "The Tree of Knowledge," the courthouse lawn will feature a Christmas tree, a Menorah and a crèche this year.

In case you'd like to join those fun-loving atheists for a festive tree dedication, The Freethought Society will hold a "tree ceremony" at 5 p.m. Saturday at the courthouse, located at 2 N. High St., in West Chester.

I've written before ("The left declares war on Christmas") about atheist Grinches trying to steal Christmas from the 85 percent of Americans who are Christians, but this appears to be a reasonable compromise.

Celebrate whatever you want, whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice. More power to the atheists for wanting to display their "Tree of Knowledge." Just don't mess with Christmas.

If one of these atheist groups challenges your community or school Christmas celebration, you can find out what your recourse is at the Christmas Resource Center set up by the American Center for Law and Justice.

No comments: