An atheist organisation has angered Christians by erecting a banner proclaiming "Nobody died for our 'sins,' Jesus Christ is a myth" next to an apparently innocent Easter display put up by a Christian group at Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, USA.
The "Freedom from Religion Foundation" (FFRF) said they made the controversial gesture to counter what they describe as anti-abortion material in the display, which was installed by "Concerned Women for America" (CWA).
On their website the Foundation claims "the CWA display has a cross and a plethora of conservative materials, including anti-abortion literature." The FFRF also claims some people within the CWA equate homosexuality with paedophilia.
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor says:
"It's unfortunate to see a sectarian symbol that is increasingly used as a symbol of political intimidation in our state capitol. It's also unfortunate to see women a serving as a front for a patriarchal religion based on women's subservience and second-class status. This is the same group that helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment citing its allegiance to biblical principles, instead of civil liberties under our secular government."
On its website the CWA, set up by Christian conservative activist Beverly LaHaye in 1979, says it exists "for women and like-minded men, from all walks of life, to come together and restore the family to its traditional purpose and thereby allow each member of the family to realize their God-given potential."
However, the CWA website also makes plain that its followers believe "God made marriage between a man and a woman" and "God has a purpose and calling for individuals even before we are born."
Unlike in the UK – where Alastair Campbell famously said "we don't do God", coming out as an atheist is far more controversial in America. Yet under the country's constitution the right to free speech is as sacred as the right to religious freedom.
Speaking on Fox News, the CWA's State Director for Wisconsin Kim Simac said although she disagreed with the sentiments expressed by the FFRF, she was thankful their views were protected by the constitutional right of freedom of speech:
"I don't know why they felt the need in their press statement to counter us, but I do think it's absolutely great that they can have their display out there too. In America we have freedom of religion and atheism is their religion and I honour that for them, I respect that for them."
Not everyone in Madison was so relaxed about the FFRF's shock tactics: the display was soon vandalised.