A federal court in December ruled that Arkansas officials must allow a non-theistic group to erect a Solstice display that features images of Albert Einstein and others on the Capitol grounds in Little Rock.
The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers sued the state after officials refused to allow it to put up the display, even though another group has been placing a Nativity scene on the grounds for years.
The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office in 1993 adopted a policy governing temporary displays on the Capitol grounds. It allows any person or group to erect temporary displays, as long as certain requirements are met.
Arkansas Secretary of State Charlie Daniels called the 8-foot by 4-foot display inconsistent with other decorations at the Capitol and criticized it on aesthetic grounds. When Daniels refused to allow access, the Arkansas ACLU filed suit.
The freethought display features pictures of people dubbed “freethinkers” by the group, including Einstein, Bill Gates, John Lennon, Thomas Jefferson and others. It also includes information about the history of the Solstice.
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright ruled in favor of the display Dec. 14. Federal courts have previously ruled that when government creates an “open forum,” it must treat all organizations equally. (Arkansas Society of Freethinkers v. Daniels)