On Saturday December 3rd, 2011 the Freethought Society assembled at the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester, Pennsylvania to protest the exclusion of the atheist group’s Tree of Knowledge winter display for the second year in a row.
For three years, the group erected their Tree of Knowledge next to the Christmas Tree, Menorah, and Jesus crèche. While some residents were offended by the atheist display, many were quite supportive. Last year, the County Commissioners changed the rules governing the “free speech zone” to purposefully exclude the atheist display.
This year’s protest had about fifty people (myself included). We gathered in front of the Courthouse to form the Human Tree of Knowledge (photo in the sidebar). Then Freethought Society president, Margaret Downey, spoke about our exclusion, discrimination of atheists, and how she was contacted by a young couple who wanted to bring their children to see the Tree of Knowledge. Downey had to sadly inform them that the County Commissioners won’t allow atheists to participate.
Other Freethought Society members got up to speak about the Separation of Church and State and about particular books on the Human Tree that they have a particular affinity towards. I spoke about the origins of winter celebrations and the real reason for the season.
Unlike previous years, there were almost no religious believers yelling anti-atheist taunts. Although there was one guy (just one) protesting our protest across the street. His sign expressed support for the County Commissioners to discriminate against atheists. It was pretty difficult to read though.
Several other people who were passing by stopped over at our information table and picked up some literature on the Freethought Society and the Tree of Knowledge. There was also information about the bus to the Reason Rally and about the Tree of Knowledge at the Ethical Humanist Society in Rittenhouse Square on Sunday December 4th at noon.
Downey also encouraged atheists to put up their own Tree of Knowledge in their home and establish the Tree as a freethought tradition during the cold winter season. For anyone who is critical of the Tree of Knowledge, I suggest you read my defense of the Tree of Knowledge from last year.
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