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Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 04:27 am

FREEDOM OF AND FROM RELIGION

The Springfield American Civil Liberties Union erected its second annual display in the Capitol rotunda Tuesday, but is hoping to avoid the same backlash from right-wing critics who last year argued that the group was cleverly trying to stamp out God.

Last year, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly stood by as his guest, author Ann Coulter, bashed the display and the ACLU, saying it’s “America’s leading anti-Christian hate group.”

The ACLU display, which sits next to a Jewish menorah and a Christian nativity scene, is a large winged poster board with text from the First Amendment, which establishes Americans’ freedom of religion, of speech and of the press. The display also quotes well-known leaders, both religious and secular, who revered the First Amendment.

Springfield ACLU’s Don Hanrahan says last year’s backlash was almost amusing. “Our display itself celebrates that the First Amendment allows all of the different things to be in the rotunda at the same time.”

Hanrahan says the ACLU not only defends the freedom of religion but also the freedom from religion. “The government has neither the right to proscibe the rights of citizens to practice religion, nor the right to prescribe certain religions. The common thread is the First Amendment, enacted to keep the government out of religion, period,” the group says in it’s press release.
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