Gov. Chris Gregoire said Thursday that she disagrees with the solstice message placed in the state Capitol by an atheist group, but she cannot order that it be removed because of free-speech guarantees that also allow a Nativity scene and Christmas tree near the Rotunda.
"This is not about my personal religion. This is about the First Amendment and respecting views that I don't necessarily agree with," Gregoire said, citing the opinion of the Attorney General's Office, which settled a lawsuit in 2007 over letting the Nativity scene be displayed near the Rotunda.
Gregoire's office has come under criticism for two days from callers — mostly from other states — reacting to a commentary on a nationally aired TV show on Fox News blasting her as a weak and confused leader for allowing the Nativity scene and atheists' placard in close proximity to each other. The Nativity bears a message about "the birth of Jesus Christ, which is celebrated by Christians around the world."
The atheists' display was granted a permit by the state Department of General Administration and installed Monday by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. Lois Walker, a Shelton woman who belonged to the group until her recent death, had requested it early in the fall.
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The display talks about the natural world, says there are no gods or devils and calls religion a "myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
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