The Freedom From Religion Foundation recently received approval by the Arlington Heights Park District to display a banner in North School Park that states, in part, "There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell."
The banner is located near the intersection of St. James and N. Evergreen, and placed within feet of the nativity scene that recently went through an extended process to gain approval. That delay occurred due to donor Jim Finnegan initially not following the required application process.
"We don't think religion belongs in public spots, there are plenty of private spots to put them in," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
"When we receive complaints about nativity scenes, as we did with the one displayed in Arlington Heights, we display one of our banners in opposition," Gaylor said.
The banner that now sits in North School Park continues on to say: There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth & superstition that hardens hearts & enslaves minds.
The banner is the organization's classic sign, Gaylor said.
"We think a nativity scene display has quite a theological message, it isn't necessary, there is no law saying that government property is a place for religious messages," Gaylor said. "There are 20,000 religions, and if we turn [public property] over for forums on religions, this can be very divisive."
The ability to get a display, or banner, approved for use in the holiday display in North School Park requires a completed permit application to the Arlington Heights Park District.
The Arlington Heights Park District has maintained since the initial controversy over the nativity scene came to a resolution, that since the land is public, groups have a right to express their opinions and beliefs.
"We can’t impose our own personal views on displays at North School Park. It’s all based on the application. As far as approving the banner, it went through the same process that the nativity scene did," said Anita Pacheco, superintendent of marketing and communications for the Arlington Heights Park District.
A sign near the displays states: This publically owned property is a public forum for the expression of constitutionally protected free speech. The Arlington Heights Park District does not sponsor, finance or endorse these expressions.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation banner will remain on display until December 31, per their request, according to Pacheco.