Atheist exhibit calls for “Reason this Season” addressing tolerance and the separation of church and state.

During the entire Christmas week, the popular Christian nativity scene won’t be around in the Lincoln, Nebraska State Capitol halls. And instead of that familiar manger, capitol employees and visitors will be greeted by the “Reason this Season” exhibits to be organized by the Lincoln Atheists, Omaha Atheists including various humanists groups. There won’t be room for the Christian nativity this year because the said atheist and humanist groups have reserved the entire capitol space.

The main exhibit planned by the collaborating groups is a table that features a miniature church, mosque, and symbols of all the other religions and beliefs. Such religious symbols will be distanced from a miniature White House, U.S. Capitol and Statue of Liberty. This according to the organizers will depict the separation of the church and state as inscribed in the Constitution. The humanist exhibit will also feature a “reason tree” and a “happy humanist” figure that will symbolize freedom of expression and the groups’ focus on scientific and philosophical thought.

In an interview with The Guardian, Lincoln Atheist representative Chris Clements said that their goal is to stress the principle of state and church separation and for people to get to know atheists more. As Clements cites “it’s meant to communicate that atheists are not bad people – we can be good without God.”

Every year the country witnessed numerous issues when it comes to the exhibits held during the Christmas and other major celebrations. And majority of these clashes often involved various religions or opposing groups. Last 2014’s nativity display in the Nebraska state capitol also became controversial with some arguing that the government is favoring a particular religion. The atheists also noted that they were excluded last year so it seems that they have come back for a vengeance by booking the entire space as early as summer.

Last year’s nativity was sponsored by the Thomas Moore Society, a far right Christian group that wants to keep Christ in Christmas. The Society’s representative Martin Cannon claimed that the atheists and humanist groups were not willing to share the space. Their attorney Christine Delgado cited that “There are four corners and if it would have been up to us we would have reserved one corner and left the other three open to anyone else. We are not particularly pleased, but we’re not upset.” Clements of the Lincoln Atheists eventually denied such allegation.

On the other hand, Tom Gray represents the Omaha Atheists and Offutt Humanists who will be joining the exhibit next week. He criticized how religion oftentimes discourage the free exchange of ideas, how religion tries to dictate laws and school rules, including the wrong perception that everyone in the mid-west are Christians. The upcoming exhibit according to him will showcase their voices. He stressed the need for open-mindedness and the importance of understanding religion in a religion-free perspective. Finally, Gray reiterated the need for tolerance “There has been a lot of hate speech and there needs to be more tolerance.”

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