Winter Solstice celebrations and responses

Amit Pal

Director of Communications

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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Winter Solstice has recently kept us on our toes here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Of course, some religious folks observe this time of the year as Christmas and often try to impose their belief system on the rest of the population. This includes their insistence on pushing religious displays into the public sphere.

Robust freethinking displays
Our response has been robust. With the help of you members, we have been visible from coast to coast. In Eugene, Ore., we’ve had a large banner above a street explaining the real reason for the celebration at this time of the year. We debuted our Bill of Rights “Nativity” in the state of New Jersey. We provided a freethinking perspective yet again in the legislative center of the most important state in the country. And we made our presence felt in our home state’s hinterland for the very first time. We faced the usual Christian Nationalist hostility; the fact that our banner was vandalized at the Washington Capitol didn’t deter us, however. FFRF Attorney Liz Cavell succinctly provides us the right information for this season about the legality of religious displays on public property.

Watch for other similar FAQs soon.


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The real reason for the season
Christian fundamentalists don’t realize that Christmas is a borrowed celebration. They should read up on our statement that we issue on the Winter Solstice each year. “The Winter Solstice is the reason for the season,” we explain. Christmas-centered folks can also be tutored by watching our “Newsbite” segment, where FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor pithily explains the Solstice observance, or our “Freethought Matters” Solstice television special, in which Annie Laurie and FFRF Co-President Dan Barker take viewers on a warm personal and historical tour of the real holiday. We celebrated Winter Solstice on our radio show last week by playing irreverent and freethinking seasonal tunes.
OK, OK, let’s pretend it’s also Christmas. Christians should then heed freethinking icon Robert Ingersoll’s wish list.
“I would like to see the whole world free — free from injustice — free from superstition,” he concluded an essay more than a century ago. “This will do for next Christmas. The following Christmas, I may want more.”
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What a political season
It’s been quite a political season, too. We denounced President Trump’s attack against nonbelievers and ridiculed a Georgia member of Congress’ claim that Trump’s impeachment proceedings afforded him less legal protection than Jesus’ trial. Our Ron Reagan ad, which received huge attention during the October Democratic primary debate, ran again during the most recent one. This brings about the thought: How does a freethinker compete for political office? On our most recent “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature, FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel and FFRF Attorney Ryan Jayne get some tips from Gayle Jordan, a freethinking activist who has contested for the state Senate in Tennessee.
Open season on India’s secular Constitution
Alas, the Hindu Nationalist government of Narendra Modi has declared open season on the founding principles of the world’s largest secular democracy. On our radio show this week, we talk with renowned Indian film and TV actor Sushant Singh, who lost his main gig as a television host after attending a demonstration against the regime’s discriminatory new laws. It’s quite a captivating interview.
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Always the season for defending the Constitution
Of course, the season didn’t preclude us from carrying on our regular work in defense of the Constitution. We persuaded a Texas school district to rein in proselytizing basketball coaches. A Missouri school district promised us that it would investigate a school chaplain. We exposed as constitutionally wet a public school team baptism in Alabama. We warned the University of South Florida about the problematic football coach it has hired from Clemson. And we stood with a Delaware town that is refusing to allow a Nativity scene on public property.
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A good season to spread our message
We were also busy spreading our message to the American public — nationally and locally. Andrew proposed an easy legislative fix (in Religion Dispatches) for the $100 billion Mormon church hoarding scandal. On the Mormons’ home turf, in the Salt Lake Tribune, he asked for compassion for the main victims of the scandal: members of the LDS church. And in our hometown paper, Andrew revealed how a Catholic order was abusing its tax-exemption in a Madison suburb.
You can see how busy the season has kept us; we’ve been able to cope only because of you.
Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Solstice and a Happy New Year!

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