Anti-religion banner posted next to nativity scene in a Manassas park

Anti-religion banner posted next to nativity scene in a Manassas park (ABC7)

In Manassas, a large banner in a city park is rattling some nerves. Posted next to a nativity scene, it calls religion a myth.

Some drivers on busy Route 234 in Manassas are seeing red over the banner. They are unhappy that the 7-foot long sign has been set up so close to the nativity scene; they don’t think it should be posted at all.

The banner reads, “There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth & superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

The banner was posted by a local man who says he grew up Christian but he's now an atheist who supports the organization Freedom From Religion Foundation.

He said, “I think that's important to let the American public know that we're out there and that we have opinions as well.”

He said he is open about his atheist beliefs with his family and friends, but he requested that his identity be protected out of concern that posting the banner could impact his job.

“The goal is not to offend. It's to maybe cause somebody to think,” he said.

“[Nelson Park is] a public forum,” he added. “Anybody has the right, the ability, to file for a permit and put up a display here.”

Nelson Park is owned and managed by the city of Manassas.

Patty Prince, the city’s communications manager, said, "The two groups displaying in the park now both have permits. It is a five day permit that each group has submitted for multiple times. The city does not control content, just time, place and manner."

Some drivers passing by the banner on Friday defended the man’s right to post it in a city park.

“Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, especially when you're talking about public property,” said Anita Brown.

But many others called the banner disrespectful and deeply offensive.

“[Atheists’] unwillingness to believe in God. That's their problem. But they can't inflict that upon those of us who live by those virtues,” Percy Brown said.

One woman was so upset by the banner, she promised she would take it down herself.

“I mean this is the birth of Jesus sitting here. Why would you want to put something like that on there? I'll take it down,” she said. “By tonight, it will be down.”

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