Atheist flag to fly above Ten Commandments monument in SomersworthBy KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent
November 29. 2017 12:18PM
SOMERSWORTH — A nonprofit organization based in Wisconsin is planning to display an atheist and free-thought flag next to the controversial Ten Commandments monument on city property.
The flag, which will be raised Monday, is blue and has a red "A" on it.
Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRE) Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said Wednesday the foundation hopes this will persuade city leaders to rethink their policies surrounding the monument and protect the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
"This is really an affront to our Constitution and an affront to the people who don't believe in the Bible," Gaylor said of the monument.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been asking that the monument be removed from the corner of Government Way in front of City Hall since 2013, when several area residents complained.
Somersworth resident Richard Gagnon, who is a member of the FFRF, requested that the atheist and free-thought flag be raised to celebrate the coming of the winter solstice.
"It's not a protest," Gagnon said. "I applied on behalf of FFRF because I wanted to express in a positive way that we are here."
Earlier this year, city councilors agreed to designate the traffic island occupied by the monument as Citizens Place. Two flagpoles were installed; organizations can have their flag displayed for a month at a time.
Flags flown above the monument have included the flag of Indonesia and the Pride Flag.
Mayor Dana Hilliard said Wednesday that on the other side of the monument on Monday, a Peace flag representative of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths will be raised.
"As one who shares and practices the Christian faith, as a Catholic, I look forward to standing with fellow believers and non-believers and celebrating our common bond with humanity," Hilliard said in a statement.
Somersworth received the monument from the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1958. It has been a topic of discussion among residents and visitors for years. In 2016, vandals toppled it and city councilors voted to put it back in the same spot on public property.
On Wednesday, City Councilor Marty Dumont Sr. said officials did not want to move the monument after it was toppled because when it was given to the city, the spot where it sits was close to three churches; City Hall was not yet on the site. "The monument has always been in the same place; the city has changed," Dumont said.
The atheist flag will be on display in Somersworth until Dec. 21.