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Atheist Flag Takes Flight Above Ten Commandments Monument in Somersworth

Todd Bookman/NHPR

It was too cold for a philosophical debate about the existence of God.

“Maybe August next time?” joked Mayor Dana Hilliard on Tuesday afternoon, as a small crowd watched the atheist flag rise over the Ten Commandments monument on an ice-covered traffic island in downtown Somersworth.

The peculiar scene was the result of a compromise of sorts. Instead of bowing to pressure to move the religious monument to private land,  last summer Hilliard instead championed the creation of a Citizen’s Place, complete with a flagpole adjacent to the granite slab, which has stood on public land since the 1950s. Residents can request a turn at the flagpole, which is how Richard Gagnon came to raise a blue flag with a red “A” in the center on a freezing afternoon.

[Read NHPR’s previous coverage of this story here.]

While both men received some criticism for flying the atheist flag, they agreed it is proof of the city’s values of tolerance and acceptance.

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

“I think it looks nice,” he added.

The atheist flag will fly until the end of the month. On Feb. 9, the city will raise the Olympic Flag in support of Team USA.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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