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Somersworth atheist raises flag next to Ten Commandments monument

By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent

January 02. 2018 9:29PM
Richard Gagnon grins as he raises an atheist and freethought flag next to the Ten Commandments on city property in Somersworth Tuesday afternoon. KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent 



SOMERSWORTH — A Somersworth atheist took his turn at Citizens Place on Tuesday, raising a blue flag with a red “A” on it next to the Ten Commandments monument on city property.

Richard Gagnon, a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, had asked that the flag be raised in December, but agreed to have it fly in January — Diversity and Tolerance Month in Somersworth.

During a ceremony at city hall, Mayor Dana Hilliard read a proclamation approved by the city council.

“‘We the People’ means just that. We the Christians and the Jews. We the Caucasians, African Americans, Latinos and Asians. We the gays and straight. We the rich and poor. We the men and women. We the believers and non-believers,” Hilliard said.

As he spoke in front of a portrait of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Hilliard said the civil rights leader’s dream of understanding and respect is reinforced by Gagnon having his views represented.

“Somersworth will once again prove to New Hampshire and our nation that we stand by our Hilltopper values of honoring each other,” Hilliard said. 

Somersworth Mayor Dana Hilliard and resident Richard Gagnon show off the atheist and freethought flag in front of a portrait of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Both the flag and the portrait will be on display in Somersworth during the month of January. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

The mayor said any resident or local organization can request their flag be raised if they support democratic ideals.

In February, Somersworth will raise an Olympic flag for Team USA. In March, Irish and Greek flags will fly for St. Patrick’s Day and Greek Independence Day.

Gagnon said the “A” on the flag donated by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Wisconsin has become a symbol for atheists, agnostics and skeptics. 

“Let us all come together as believers and nonbelievers. Judge us not by who we are. Judge us by how we treat one another,” Gagnon said.

A few people turned out in the bitter cold to support Gagnon and his efforts. Kurt Dunton of South Berwick, Maine, said he passes by Citizens Place in front of Somersworth’s city hall on a regular basis and is looking forward to seeing the flag fly.

“It’s good for the community so people understand not everyone thinks the same,” said Dunton, who said he is an atheist.


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