For the second year in a row, atheists in Wisconsin have set up their own version of the traditional Christian creche in the Capitol Rotunda.
Like typical depictions of the Christian Nativity scene, the “natural nativity scene” displays a small child in a manger surrounded by wisemen. However, this display proclaims “the reason for the season” is the Winter Solstice and the wisemen are not strictly men — Emma Goldman, the goddess Venus and the Statue of Liberty stand beside Charlies Darwin, Albert Einstein and Thomas Jefferson. The baby Jesus has been replaced with a baby girl.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation set up the atheist creche last year after the conservative group Wisconsin Family Action placed a Nativity scene in the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda for the first time.
“We nonbelievers don’t mind sharing the season with Christians, but we think there should be some acknowledgment that the Christians really ‘stole’ the trimmings of Christmas, and the sun-god myths, from pagans,” FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement.
Religious Christmas displays in public buildings have become a contentious issue in recent years. The Supreme Court has ruled that under the First Amendment the government cannot deny religious organizations equal access to public spaces and facilities. Local governments have opted to either permit all religious displays, as in the case of Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda, or banned religious displays altogether.