A three-judge panel from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous ruling yesterday against a so-called “Winter Solstice” sign the Freedom From Religion Foundation recently tried to put alongside Christmas decorations in the city of Warren, Michigan. The sign read:
“At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world, Religion is but Myth and superstition that hardens hearts And enslaves minds.”
The sign was rejected by local officials who found it inconsistent with the Christmas decorations the city displayed.
The court disagreed with allegations made in a lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and ruled the U.S. Constitution “does not convert these [Christmas] displays into a seasonal public forum, requiring governments to add all comers to the mix and creating a poison pill for even the most secular displays in the process.”
The opinion also noted the city’s decision to put up a nativity scene does not violate the U.S. Constitution, saying, “The nativity scene, when accompanied by this collection of secular and seasonal symbols, does not amount to an establishment of religion or for that matter an impermissible endorsement of it.”
The ruling said it is not illegal to bar an “opposing view” from inclusion among the decorations.
This case should strike a chord with many Arkansans, as a few years ago a federal judge ordered the state to permit a “winter solstice display” to be put up alongside the nativity scene that adorns the Capitol lawn every December amid other Christmas decorations. The display’s content largely deals with atheism and “free thought”–not the Winter Solstice–much like the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s sign does. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is debating appealing yesterday’s ruling. Christmas may be 10 months away, but the “War on Christmas,” as so many call it, seems to be turning into a year-round endeavor.
Jerry is the founder and president of Family Council. He began Family Council in 1989 after a successful effort to amend the Arkansas Constitution to prevent the use of public funds for abortions. He and his wife reside in Little Rock. They have four sons.