Saturday, December 13, 2008

'Tis the Season to Ban Public Displays -- Blame the Wesboro Baptist Church and the "Flying Spaghetti Monster"

The Department of General Administration for Washington State has suspended any further approvals for displays at the Capitol building in Olympia. This moratorium on new displays or exhibits will remain in effect until sometime in the new year when the department reviews its policy on displays, reports the Seattle Times. So what's behind this extraordinary decision?

The department declared the moratorium because it received far more requests than it anticipated and that could be accommodated in the display area on the third floor of the building, [department spokesman Steve] Valandra said.

The furor over the displays began early this month when an atheist group, reacting to a Nativity scene set up by a private citizen, put up an anti-religion placard. Several pro-religion displays followed.

This week, the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church applied for permission to put up a "Santa Claus Will Take You to Hell" sign, which includes lines such as "Santa's to blame for the dead soldier's fate."

Members of the church are known for protesting at the funerals of Iraq war soldiers because they believe the war and the deaths are God's punishment for the U.S. condoning homosexuality.

The moratorium applies to Westboro's application, along with pending requests for a Buddhist display, a Jewish banner, a mannequin of Satan holding a statement against atheists and wishing them a merry Christmas, an aluminum pole in celebration of the invented holiday of Festivus, and a "Flying Spaghetti Monster Holiday Display."

However, a menorah will still be installed on December 21st, since that application preceded the moratorium.

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