Humanists of Rhode Island have applied for a permit to put up a banner at the state capitol, where there is already a nativity scene and a Hannukah menora. Steve Ahlquist, Jessica’s uncle and the president of the organization, explains why they’re doing this:
Recently I became aware that the erection of a nativity scene at Rhode Island’s State House was the second in an organized, national effort to put up such displays in or near every state capitol in the country…
However, in light of the fact that there seems to be a national effort under way to invade every state capital with permanent displays of religious imagery, (as can be seen in this recent piece about Florida’s capital) the Humanists of Rhode Island have no choice but to respond in kind.
Today we have sent an email to those in charge of public displays at the State House declaring our intent to prominently display a secular humanist seasonal banner in the main rotunda of the state house, celebrating secular values and separation of church and state. You can see the art for the banner at the top of this post.
As we await a timely reply from the powers-that-be in the State House, people should know that this was not a decision our group came to easily, as we would much rather focus on our community service efforts, but we are a group that firmly believes, as John F. Kennedy once declared, “in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” This is why our banner honors the founder of our state, Roger Williams, and attempts to claim the season as a celebration of his wildly progressive and radical ideas.
This is the banner they want to put up:
The focus on Roger Williams, who founded the colony that eventually became the state of Rhode Island after being exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony (which forbid not only all non-Christian religions but also Christian denominations other than Puritanism), is entirely appropriate.
Update: The banner is now up.