The Christian group that unveiled a Nativity scene in Florida’s Capitol on Tuesday took it in stride Friday when an atheist organization erected its own display in the rotunda, wishing passersby a “Happy Winter Solstice.”
“It’s their right to do that, but am I shaking in my boots?” said Pam Olsen, executive director of the International House of Prayer Tallahassee. “No.”
In a news release, the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s explained the display – about the size and shape of a grade school bicycle rack – is meant to mark the “rebirth” of the sun in the northern hemisphere.
It depicts Ben Franklin, the Statue of Liberty, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the Bill of Rights and reads:
“At this season of the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the birth of the Unconquered Sun — the TRUE reason for the season. As Americans, let us also honor the birth of our Bill of Rights, which reminds us there can be no freedom OF religion, without having freedom FROM religion in government.”
Gary Whittenberger, a Tallahassee resident and member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said the display was meant as alternative, secular viewpoint to balance the Christian and Jewish symbols on display during the holiday season.
“We prefer that there not be any religious display at the Capitol, but since the state decided to … make it an open forum, we that thought was a good move,” he told BizPac Review Friday. “I’m glad the state of Florida has taken a more open-minded view.”
The Freedom From Religion’s display is just across the rotunda from a Nativity scene that was unveiled Tuesday by the Florida Prayer Network, in a ceremony that mixed ancient scripture and prayer, traditional Christmas carols and a decidedly modern battle between church and state in the form of the Obama administration’s attempts to force Christian companies like Hobby Lobby to violate their religious beliefs.
Hobby Lobby is a sponsor of the rotunda Nativity scene. It’s fighting a very real battle with the White House for religious freedom in this country.
“They’re fighting for their rights as a Christian company,” Olsen said at Tuesday’s ceremony. “We’re fighting for religious freedom.”
On Friday, Olsen wasn’t bothered by the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s allusion to the Bill of rights and apparent competition with her group’s Nativity scene.
“The reality is, they don’t like God,” she said. “They have no understanding of the Founding Fathers.”
But Whittenberger said his group has nothing against a Supreme Deity.
“Most of our members are non-religious, atheists or agnostics,” he said. “They would not say they hate God. It would be like saying they hate unicorns, because unicorns do not exist.”