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Atheist Mocks Nativity Scene With Solstice Advisory

December 21, 1998|From Associated Press

WEATHERFORD, Texas — Don't bother wishing Dick Hogan a Merry Christmas.

He considers it a holiday for the greedy, and he's hung a sign reading "Happy Winter Solstice, The REAL reason for the season" near a nativity scene outside the Parker County Courthouse.

He got a permit for the sign as part of a settlement of a lawsuit he filed against the county challenging display of the religious scene on public property.

The 53-year-old atheist said the sign "is a great opportunity to educate those of religious delusion that this time of the season in no way pertains to the birth of a deity and is in fact a pagan ritual taken by [Christians] under the guise of giving while motivated by greed."

County Judge Ben Long said the sign is sure to anger residents in this town of 18,000.

"It will draw a crowd, some controversy and maybe some confrontation," he said. "It may be difficult to keep it up."

When Hogan filed his lawsuit two years ago, nativity scene supporters picketed the courthouse, displaying signs reading "Honk If You Love Jesus."

But few people gathered Saturday afternoon when Hogan placed his 4-by-8-foot sign, referring to the winter solstice holiday celebrated thousands of years before Christianity.

Although at least one passing motorist greeted Hogan with profanity, Morris White, owner of a nearby appliance store, said no one is likely to cause a disturbance.

"Everybody in America still has a few rights left," White said. "I'm going to be positive about the nativity scene and say that it is a traditional Christmas [symbol] that I as a Christian will celebrate."

Hogan hopes his sign will create awareness of the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

"I did mean to raise some eyebrows," he said. "I'd like to get somebody out of the closet and say, 'I don't agree with your belief system but I believe in your politics.' "

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