A news story on a display featuring the Ten Commandments is out there again, but this way in a more positive light than one is used to hearing. While there are forces at work to remove reminders of the nation’s Judeo-Christian roots—and have been for some time—they’re not always succeeding. At least for now, the Ten Commandments will be displayed in Somersworth, New Hampshire.
In addition to the display, there is also to be a compromise between believers and non-believers, as the Christian Post recently reported. Those belonging to the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths had plans to fly their peace flag, while those from the Freedom From Religion Foundation had plans to fly their own flag, feature an ‘A.’
The ceremony was scheduled for December 4. However, since reporting of the compromise came out, plans for the atheist flag, which was scheduled to fly until the 21st, have been adjusted in a big way.
Union Leader reported that such a flag display has been postponed until January, even though the purpose for going up in December was to celebrate the winter solstice, which is December 21st.
While Mayor Dana Hilliard, who is Catholic, has and still is supportive of such displays, he contacted Somersworth resident, Richard Gagnon, a member of the FFRF who initially made the request, if he could move his request. Hilliard reportedly plans to ask the city council to declare January as “Diversity and Tolerance” month, which is when the flag would fly.
The move was confirmed by Brenda Beda, an executive assistant to the city manager.
Gagnon said he “get[s] it” and is “looking for my turn at the flagpole,” agreeing that for January “it sounds like it would be more appropriate.”
Hilliard continues to stand by the atheist’s flag, and in a Thursday press conference with Gagnon, who is “proud” to stand by him, as he discussed the flurry of social media attacks, mostly from non-residents. “I am not only disheartened and frustrated, but I am angered,” Hilliard continued.
FFRF is an atheist group which has, at times militantly so, worked to remove religious symbols and activities from society. This includes speaking out against the Superintendent of McKinney School District, in Texas, for daring to give an ecumenical prayer at the school’s convocation in August.
It was thus a pleasantly surprising move that the group would prefer to take advantage of the two flag poles the city had erected following last year’s controversy with the Ten Commandments display, which was knocked over, rather than fight this year’s display and flag ceremony. As the Christian Post reported, they have fought it in the past.
Flags that have been or will be raised this year include the flag of Indonesia, Pride Flag, Police Memorial flag, EMS flag, the Children Festival flag, the flag of the United Kingdom, the POW/MIA flag and the Peace Dove flag for the holidays, which goes up on Pearl Harbor Day, according to Hilliard.
In 2016, a long debate over the Ten Commandments monument erupted after the stones were knocked down and councilors had to decide if they should restore the religious symbol to public property. It is still unknown how the stones were knocked down.
Gagnon also seems to be a hopeful change from merely fighting such displays. In addition to his plans for the “significan[ce] in… a primarily secular observance” with the flag, Fosters.com noted that, with added emphasis, “He said the flag is intended to present a positive image of freethinkers who want constructive dialogue.”
While Hilliard stands by Gagnon and his group’s flag, he also supports and clarified the reasons behind restoring the Ten Commandments. As NH1 reported:
During the press conference, Hilliard said restoring the monument was about “balance.” He also said he has long been a champion of diversity and inclusion, two key characteristics to anyone wanting to fly a flag from the community pole at the site, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Such a co-existing compromise is one way to achieve that. For atheists and believers to be able to exist and celebrate side-by-side not only honors the First Amendment rights Americans enjoy to free expression of religion. More importantly, it serves as a reminder that the United States has been, and still is, a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principals.