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New York Fire Chief Refuses to Remove 'Happy Birthday Jesus' Sign Despite Atheist Complaints

  • Amanda Casanova

    Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and…

  • 2014 Dec 19

A fire chief in Utica, New York will not take down a Christmas-themed sign that is on display outside the firehouse despite calls from atheists to remove the sign.

The sign reads, “Happy Birthday Jesus We love you.” The sign is displayed outside Firehouse No. 4, but atheists have complained and asked that the sign be taken down. They have called the sign “exclusionary and alienating.”

"About 20 percent of Utica citizens are nonreligious and others follow non-Christian faiths — and that includes Utica firefighters. The Utica Fire Department should not send them this exclusionary and alienating message," Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), said in a statement.

But Fire Chief Russell Brooks said he refuses to take down the sign, despite letters and calls. The firehouse has displayed the sign every Christmas for about 10 years.

“9/11 brought a lot of the guys closer to God, and they just wanted to show their faith in Jesus," Brooks told WKTV. "They had no idea a controversy would arise.”

Brooks hired the Thomas More Law Center to defend his view.

"I was advised by the Thomas Law Center that we were well within our rights to display our Christmas sign," Brooks wrote in a response to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. "In addition, they would support us, as well as any efforts from any organizations looking to prevent us from doing so."

Publication date: December 19, 2014