An anonymous donor has joined with the activist group American Nativity Scene and the Thomas More Society in a campaign to provide free Nativity scenes to display at or near statehouses across the nation.
The organizers say now is the time to prepare for the displays because of the process required to obtain permission.
“Indeed, these are for Christmastime display, but October is the time of year to start finalizing plans for a privately funded Christmas display as is legally allowed in traditional public forums such as state capitols, county complexes or city hall lawns,” explained Ed O’Malley, president of American Nativity Scene.
“We are giving away free Nativity scenes. It’s not really a Halloween treat, but it’s definitely not a trick. We are seriously committed to our goal of keeping Christ in Christmas.”
Tom Brejcha, the Thomas More Society president, said atheist groups “may mock our message, but we will not be silent as it is critical that Christians proclaim the Gospel message to their fellow citizens.”
“Anti-Christian, anti-Christmas rhetoric and satanic expositions merely serve to provide sharp emphasis by means of their stark contrast with the positive, uplifting, hopeful and joyous message of Christmas,” Brejcha said. “The Christmas message bears secular as well as religious significance, as it highlights the hope and miracle of birth and new life, the inherent dignity of each and every human being, focusing our attention on the humble and lowly infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger amidst straw and animals, honored by shepherds and kings alike, and heralded by choirs of angels. That message of the essential equality of all human beings, no matter how rich or poor, humble or high-stationed, resonates deeply with the values that Americans cherish.”
The mission of American Nativity Scene is to place a Nativity scene within or directly outside state capitol buildings across America. Last Christmas, it provided 14 displays.
The attorneys at the Thomas More Society have defended citizens who privately fund religious displays on public property, arguing they are protected by the First and 14th Amendments of the U. S. Constitution.
The organizers explain a permanent federal injunction banning discrimination against religious speech assures that the Christmas creches are protected from erroneous applications of the widely misunderstood concept of “separation of church and state.”
American Nativity Scene says it already has shipped more than 300 scenes to 32 different states to be erected in public parks, libraries, farm roads and government buildings.
“All it takes is for a few people willing to stand up and be heard on this critical issue of freedom of religious speech,” the group said.
A poll showed 72 percent of Americans agree that religious scenes should be allowed in public.
“Nowhere in the United States Constitution will you find the words/concepts Separation of Church and State. Quite the contrary – the Supreme Court has consistently ruled the oft used ‘Establishment Clause’ that forbids the establishment of one state religion for all, does not require a state entity to exclude private religious speech from public forums,” the Thomas More Society said.
The legal group continued:
The public debate that the Nativity scene displays trigger is a very healthy debate and one whose resolution is very important in terms of our re-shaping the contours of our more recently mis-shapen American culture. Far too many individuals react in a negative way to witnessing ANY public displays of religious symbols and beliefs. In many cases these are the same folks who insist that religious beliefs – and worse, the values that arise out of those beliefs – have no legitimate role to play in our public debates over the shape and content of our public policies.
What values, exactly, do these Nativity scenes convey and proclaim? Some will say, simply, that they are both a reminder and an endorsement of the Christian religion. But while this purely religious significance is undeniably true, it bears repeating that the manger scene and the figures of Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus – together with the angel, the poor shepherds and their animals and, later, the three Kings bearing their magnificent gifts – convey a host of other meanings, which have a secular significance and as well as a religious one. These manger scenes are celebrations of birth, new life, and renewal and hope bound up with succeeding generations. As well, they celebrate the beauty of the family, of mother, father and child. That the shepherds attended the event with their animals bespeaks the natural bonds that unite all men and women, within the larger human community, and together with all other living beings, our fellow creatures. Finally, the heralding angel adds the Divine, transcendent worth and dignity to this elemental human drama, and the arrival of the gift-bearing Kings signifies that rich and poor alike share equally in the joy that greets this newborn babe.”