Religious Law

Atheists Opposing Religious Displays on Public Property Employ 'Join 'Em' Strategy


Outdoor nativity scene in Barcelona, Spain.
Mikhail Zahranichny /

Atheists who oppose Nativity scenes and other religious displays on public property are trying a new tack.

The atheists are vying for equal time and space so they can post their own message, according to a column by Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., at the Washington Post’s Guest Voices blog

“Savvy atheists have figured out that the best way to beat them is to join them: Counter religious messages with anti-religious messages—and government officials have no choice but to allow all or nothing,” Haynes writes.

The result is that some governments are opting to shut down all displays on public property by private groups. That happened a few years ago in Washington state, which barred displays by outside groups in the Capitol building after atheist groups erected signs mocking religion next to holiday religious displays, Haynes says.

The city of Santa Monica, Calif., took similar action in June after atheist groups dominated the public displays last December in Palisades Park. Church groups sued to overturn the city’s decision, but a federal judge dismissed the case on Thursday, the Associated Press reports.

Haynes suggests the atheists should advance their message at another time of year, letting Christian messages go unanswered in December. At some point, Haynes writes, “in-your-face tactics become counter-productive and needlessly divisive.”

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