The Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics group at the University of Wisconsin set up the satirical religious display alongside a “Festivus” pole and a “Winter Solstice Nativity” scene featuring Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Mark Twain that was set up by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
“The rotunda is getting very cluttered,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. “But if a devotional nativity display is allowed, then there must be ‘room at the inn’ for all points of view, including irreverency and free thought.”
The secular displays join traditional Christmas items such as a 30-foot balsam fir tree encircled by a toy train set, and they have been part of the capitol holiday displays since a 1984 lawsuit failed to remove the Capitol Christmas tree, halt a menorah lighting and end an annual nativity pageant.
“We would prefer to keep our capitol secular,” said Sam Erickson, AHA president. “But if the state decides to turn it into an open forum, they have opened the floodgates. We hope everyone takes advantage of this opportunity to advertise their own viewpoints, no matter how silly.”
The group’s display features movie poster-style artwork depicting the Flying Spaghetti Monster, saying “he boiled for your sins,” and urging onlookers to “be touched by his noodly appendage, before it is too late!”
“Think this is ridiculous? We agree!” the sign says. “Religious ideas should not be promoted within the halls of government. Protect the separation of church and state, it protects us all.”
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