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‘Solstice’ sign

A political candidate in this week’s primary election for the office of comptroller in Illinois has filed a lawsuit against the state charging it officially expressed “hate” and “hostility” toward Christianity and other religions by allowing atheists to post a sign in a state building at Christmas.

The sign, posted by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, said:

At the time of the winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no
gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our
natural world. Religion is just a myth and superstition that hardens
hearts and enslaves minds.

The sign was placed in the Illinois capitol building, through which GOP comptroller candidate William J. Kelly, a cable television executive, was required to travel for his responsibilities as a candidate.

“The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, in conjunction with the 14th
Amendment, forbids state action that has the effect of disapproving, inhibiting or
evincing hostility toward religion,” the lawsuit, filed in the Northern District in Illinois, said, “The United States Supreme Court has specifically held, for instance, that the Constitution affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any. …”

Kelly named Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who is responsible for enforcing state property regulations, as defendant.

“The language in the sign at issue stating ‘Religion is just a myth and superstition that
hardens hearts and enslaves minds’ is speech that evidences disapproval and hostility
toward religion,” the case continues. “Further, that speech is attributable to the defendant by virtue of the defendant approving the sign, despite the Illinois Administrative Code expressly prohibiting the sign, and by its placement of the sign next to the described displays in the Capitol Building.”

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“We need to stop the hate speech against Christians and all religious people,” Kelly said in a statement released along with the announcement about the lawsuit. “It is this attitude of hate that has enabled the stripping of religion, tradition, and history from our holidays, our history books, and our culture in general. Perhaps the atheists need some sensitivity training.”

The case seeks declaratory relief and permanent injunction.

“I wouldn’t be allowed to go around and make hateful statements about other religions,” Kelly told WND.

“The totality of the language of the sign is hostile and inflammatory to all religions,
including but not limited to Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam and others that
worship God and/or believe in the concepts heaven and hell,” the case claims.

According to a CBS report, Kelly was escorted from the state capitol building at Christmas for turning the sign around so that it could not be read. He was escorted away by capitol police and was the subject of an incident report.

Kelly called the sign “hate speech,” the lawsuit says.

“Kelly
turned the sign, so that the sign was face down. Kelly did so, in part, on the basis that
the sign constituted hate speech, and because the defendant’s approval and placement
of the sign in violation of the Constitution and its own governing law violated the
Establishment Clause’s prohibition against government disapproval of religion,” the lawsuit explains.

State officials could not be reached by WND for comment.

The sign is part of a campaign by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which puts them near nativity displays across the country at Christmas.

Foundation spokesman Dan Barker told CBS that Kelly’s argument was partly correct.

“He’s kind of right, because the last couple of sentences do criticize religion, and of course, the beginning is a celebration of the winter solstice. But that kind of speech is protected as well – speech that is critical and speech that is supportive,” he said.

A commentary at the Hot Air blog in December addressed that very concern.

Said the commentary by “Dafydd ab Hugh”:

The sign reads: “At the time of the winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is just myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

Hm; in order to “let reason prevail,” let us consider how such a sign might look when pushing a different message; consider this hypothetical placard, which could have been erected directly in front of the menorah in the rotunda:

At the time of the Mass of Christ, let the Son of God prevail. There are no laws, no acts that can save you from hell. There is only the divine salvation that comes from the King of Kings. Judaism is just myth and superstition that bewitches believers and damns souls.

Does anybody believe that such a (purely hypothetical) sign would be allowed under the Illinois state Capitol dome? Obviously not, because it is not so much an expression of faith as an attack on other people’s faith.

The commentary continued: “FRFF plants their pugnacious sign like Cortez planting the flag of Spain in Aztec Mexico: Wherever it stands, it’s a deliberate and truculent affront to religions other than atheism… as even the foundation’s co-president agrees!”

Officials said the case has been assigned to Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer.

Kelly is among six candidates in Tuesday’s primary. He is facing Orland Park Village Trustee Jim Dodge and former state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka for the GOP nomination. Democratic candidates are state Rep. David E. Miller, former state Deputy Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi and lawyer Clint Krislov.

WND reported when the Freedom from Religion Foundation suggested people complain to the post office about a stamp honoring Mother Teresa.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation also challenged the prayers at President Obama’s inauguration.


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