Debate of the Week 11: The Nativity
My answer is yes.
Christmas itself is a religious holiday. Just look at the name “Christ” “mass”, or celebration of Christ. The purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, religious symbols of all kinds, from nativity scenes, to crosses, to the star of Bethlehem (the star at the top of the Christmas tree), to angels, to any other religious symbol surrounding the birth of our Lord Jesus is more than appropriate for display both publicly and privately.
Displaying traditional symbols of Christmas do nothing to “make a law establishing religion” as the Constitution expressly forbids. There is no law making Christianity the official religion of the land involved. Just as displaying crosses on government land, having “Under God” in the pledge, and having “In God We Trust” on our money are not laws declaring a specific religion to be the official law of the land, and are therefore ALL Constitutional.
The closest thing to establishing a religion in the US are not the display of religious symbols, it is the holidays Thanksgiving and Christmas themselves. These are OFFICIAL holidays that are RELIGIOUS in nature. Thanksgiving is a day set aside to thank God for His blessings throughout the year, and Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
However, even this does not violate the Atheist’s cherished “separation of church and state” because they do not REQUIRE people to observe them. They shut down government entities for a day, just like New Years, MLK day, President’s day, and other secular holidays, but they force no one to actually observe them or for private businesses to shut down or observe them either. That is done by employee and customer demand, as well as the free will of the private businesses.
So, in no way do religious displays on public property, holiday related or otherwise, “make a law establishing religion”. However, forcing the removal and banning such displays does violate this part of the First Amendment “or restricting the free exercise thereof (religion)” by forcing public servants to not observe their own religion and it restricts freedom of speech by stifling expressions of religion, popular culture, and free artistry.
This is, of course, coming from a strict Constitutional constructionist.
What do you think?