A Utica, New York fire brigade is refusing to remove its “Happy Birthday Jesus” sign despite pressure from the community to do so, WKTV reports.
Fire Chief Russell Brooks said that his company has received numerous letters from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) demanding that the sign — pictured below — be taken down.
Happy Birthday Jesus!!!!!! We love You!!!!! pic.twitter.com/RttgtCj8Y7
— lourens du preez (@lourensdupreez) December 16, 2014
“About 20 percent of Utica citizens are nonreligious and others follow non-Christian faiths, and that includes Utica firefighters,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote in a statement. “The Utica Fire Department should not send them this exclusionary and alienating message.”
Brooks said that his firefighters started putting the sign up after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
“9/11 brought a lot of the guys closer to God, and they just wanted to show their faith in Jesus,” he told WKTV. “They had no idea a controversy would arise.”
Brooks added that he would not comply with the FFRF’s request. “The Pledge of Allegiance has God in it, money has God on it,” he said. “This case isn’t unique.”
He has enlisted the aid of the Thomas More Law Center — named for the Catholic martyr who was beheaded for refusing to bend to King Henry VIII’s will — which has agreed to take on the station’s case pro bono if the FFRF sues for the removal of the sign.
Watch a report on the controversy via WKTV News below.