Atheist group unveils placard next to Christian Nativity scene

An atheist group has unveiled an anti-religion placard in the Washington state Capitol, joining a Christian Nativity scene and "holiday tree" on display during December.

The placard reads: "At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

The foundation's co-president, Dan Barker, said it was important for atheists to offer their viewpoint alongside the overtly religious Nativity scene and Christmas-style holiday tree.

"Our members want equal time," Barker said. "Not to muscle, not to coerce, but just to have a place at the table."

The three displays, all privately sponsored, were granted permits from state groundskeepers to be placed in the Capitol's grand marble hallways.

On Monday, the Nativity scene and atheist sign were installed alongside each other in a hallway between the state Senate and House chambers, separated by a large bust of the state's namesake, George Washington.

For now, the atheist sign is a stand-in.

A metal plaque meant for display was delayed by a shipping error, Barker said.

It will be two-sided, with a lengthy message on the main side, and "Keep State/Church Separate" on the back.

The state says the display is free speech and passed certain criteria, and can't be seen as state endorsement.