Sorry, Jesus, but Freedom From Religion Foundation says you’re not the reason for the season.
Charles Jones, a local member of the organization, which is based in Madison, Wisconsin, has put up a banner stretching across 8th Avenue that spans 30 feet by 3 feet.
“Celebrate the Solstice. Tis the season of reason,” the banner reads.
The Winter Solstice is the shortest and darkest day of the year. But the group says it signals the rebirth of the sun and the start of the natural new year.
Putting up the banner was spearheaded by Jones, a member of the nonprofit and organizer of the Eugene Atheist Pub Social.
Freedom From Religion Foundation paid for the required $500,000 insurance — which only cost about $100 Jones says. The Portland branch of the nonprofit held a fundraiser to make the banner and pay the city fees associated with putting the banner up.
The whole process cost $750, and it will stay up until Dec. 27, Jones says.
In the past, a large banner across 11th Avenue at this time of year typically had Christmas-oriented messages that include Jesus and going to church.
And it caused a lot of drama, as reported two years ago. When a banner was erected urging people to go to church to celebrate Jesus, an official with the city of Eugene said they cannot prohibit a religious-themed banner from propping up because it is speech protected by the First Amendment. However, residents were upset, saying the banner made them feel “alienated.”
That’s what pushed Jones to put the banner up in Eugene.
It’s a public square issue, he says. In this public space, we shouldn’t be having a debate on religion. There should be a separation of church and state.
He adds if someone puts up a religious-themed banner, he’ll put up the banner again next year.
As of now, the two other banners are filled with messages from Our Children’s Trust and the other is publicity for a local event.
Freedom From Religion Foundation received $3.3 million in public support in 2016 according to its most recent IRS tax documents. It is the largest organization of so-called “freethinkers,” a name for atheists and agnostics.
The nonprofit’s banners have also been put up in San Diego, Chicago and Milwaukee. The group has also recently forced Dover, Ohio to remove a Nativity Scene and Ten Commandments from public property.