Battle over ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ sign heats up
Pitman, N.J., a 2-square-mile town with 9,000 residents, has the slogan “Everybody loves Pitman.” But lately, not everyone agrees.
An Atheist group, based out of Wisconsin, is now offering a $2,000 reward for information on the arsonist that tried to light the group’s “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia” billboard on fire.
Hilda DiBlasio for USA TODAY
A billboard in Pitman, N.J., reads “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia.” The sign is a protest to the town’s “Keep Christ in Christmas” banner.
The billboard is the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s protest against a “Keep Christ in Christmas” sign that hangs over Pitman’s main street. Saturnalia refers to an ancient festival in December that once honored the Roman god Saturn.
The group has been protesting the sign for a few years saying it violates the separation of church and state.
“This has been a really long saga. I have been working on this since 2011,” said Andrew Seidel, attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “We’d appreciate it if they started obeying the Constitution.”
The attempted arson isn’t the first protest of the billboard.
First there were yard signs that said “Keep Christ in Christmas” in front of the billboard, then a man in a Santa Claus costume with a sign, then a family tried to hang a picture of Jesus on top of the billboard.
“It’s an ongoing battle that just proves people are too sensitive,” says Danielle Roberts, 24, of Pitman, N.J. “The law is clear. While people are entitled to believe in whatever they choose, Pitman should not be giving preferential treatment to one belief over another.”
Pitman says it has no plans on forcing the banner to come down.
“I’m split, because I really don’t care what anyone chooses to celebrate or for what reasons, but the Christmas sign goes up in the middle of the street and no one says anything,” Tyler Lovelace, 22, says. “The second something opposes popular opinion in Pitman, I get 50 people complaining about it and people trying to burn it to the ground.”
As for resident Robert Eck’s opinion? “Just keep the nog in eggnog.”