Blog of Rights

12 Days of Religious Liberty - Day 9

By Alicia Gay, ACLU at 10:03am

During what is often referred to as the holiday season, a variety of cultures and religions honor an equally diverse number of both religious and secular traditions. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Bodhi Day are just some of the religious holidays that are celebrated this time of year. And for many who don’t subscribe to a particular faith tradition, the season is still seen as an occasion to gather with friends and family.

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No matter why you are celebrating this holiday season, we can all celebrate living in a country where religious freedom is a fundamental value. The First Amendment's Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses not only protect the right to believe (or not to believe), but also the right to express and to manifest religious beliefs.

In honor of our country’s proud history of promoting religious freedom, and the ACLU’s commitment to protecting the rights of all religious believers to practice their faith, this holiday season we are highlighting 12 cases we have brought on behalf of a variety of faiths defending religious liberty and the right to religious expression.

Ninth Day: ACLU Says Winter Solstice Display Must Be Allowed Alongside Other Religious Symbols at State Capitol
Religious expression – during the holidays and throughout the year – is a valued part of the First Amendment rights guaranteed all citizens, but government cannot be in the business of deciding which religious symbols to endorse and which to reject.

The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers sought to erect a Winter Solstice holiday display on the grounds of the Arkansas state capitol, to be displayed near the Christian crèche which has been on display on state capitol grounds each holiday season for over half a century. ?

The display depicts images of the Winter Solstice and the mythologies that arose from this celestial event, as well as suggested readings and quotes from famous philosophers, scientists, and other secular writers and thinkers.

In 2009, Arkansas Secretary of State Charlie Daniels denied the group's request to erect the display, despite the fact that it meets the requirements of the state capitol display policy and despite the presence of the other, religious display on the grounds. With the help of the ACLU of Arkansas the group sued, asserting that their free speech rights had been violated, and won. Read more…

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For more instances of the ACLU rigorously defending the rights of all religious believers to practice their faiths, please visit our website.

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