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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Debate of the Week 11: The Nativity

Are religious symbols of Christmas appropriate to display on public land?

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?

35 Comments:

  • A subject guaranteed to get tons of reaction, for sure!
    In my opinion, any & all religious displays should be allowed on ANY public area! Not so for government areas. As much as I disagreed with the removal of the 10 commandments from the courthouse, according to the Constitution, it was right that it shouldn't be there..which is too bad, because that's what the laws of the land are, aren't they?
    LibbY!

    By Blogger Libby, at 12:40 PM  

  • Libby:
    Where do you think the founders got their law (english common law, yeah right!) the TEN COMMANDMENTS along with other BIBLICAL principles. They work, no reason to silence reason.

    By Anonymous Anthony from CA, at 1:18 PM  

  • The removal of christian symbols and biblical theology from the public square is the work of history revisionists. People should be albe to push their "non-religous" religion on the masses. Let the people decide. Why are liberals so affraid of democracy and Jesus? How unamerican and intolerant!!

    By Anonymous younger brother1, at 1:21 PM  

  • ..Shold NOT be able to push...(that was a typo)

    By Anonymous younger brother1, at 1:22 PM  

  • I don't care either way, if I want to look at a Nativity, I can always have one at home.

    I will say this, I had better never see a statue of Mahamed holding a Quran in front of City Hall on Ramadan.

    You folks just make sure that never happens.

    By Blogger Ranando, at 2:27 PM  

  • heh, heh, that seems to be the problem. The Supreme Clown Posse has held that "equal access" is the test, so it's only illegal for a religious group to set up a nativity scene on public property if a Chanukah or Santa Claus display would not be permitted.

    There are plenty of people on both sides of this issue who seem unable either to accept or to comprehend this concept, but that's where the matter stands, and it seems utterly reasonable to me.

    By Blogger catastrophile, at 3:22 PM  

  • libby, what constitution are you reffering to? Let me look at the one founded by America which says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    I see no where in there that it states "Courts shall not have the 10 comandments displayed" nor do I see a "all effects of religion are to be stripped from government".

    Just because there is a religious symbol somewhere does not mean that a religion is being established. I find it funny that the ACLU has no problem with the CHRISTIAN chaplans that have served congress since the begining, but they have major issues with the 10 comandments.

    Oh, and by the by, the government and government areas are public property, thus you contradict yourself in claiming that religious display should be allowed in any public area and then step to say except government areas. They are by their very definition public.

    By Blogger Haximus, at 3:45 PM  

  • Well, what will they think of next. Leaving Jesus out of a nativity scene seems odd. This almost sounds like a joke on the Jay Leno show. Good golly, what are they thinking in Memphis?

    "Saying it would be "inappropriate" to include them, Memphis, Tenn., library officials have banned Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the wise men from a promotional nativity scene, leaving only the stable animals and a shepherd boy. Attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund say they are working to "educate" the officials about their action, saying the exclusion of the figurines is blatantly unconstitutional".

    Political correctness runs amok again. Who said politics is boring?

    Take care.

    By Blogger T.L. Stanley, at 7:19 PM  

  • MMR: that's not political correctness, that's just dumb. The most likely explanation is that the people responsible have bought into this line of nonsense about how liberals are out to eliminate Christ from Christmas. After all, people say it over and over again, so it must be true, right?

    By Blogger catastrophile, at 11:26 PM  

  • I was reading Jewsweek and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach had a interesting observation regarding the discussion over nativity scenes being banned.

    "But the biggest story of all was the decision of a federal judge to ban nativity scenes from New York public schools, ruling that while Christmas trees, menorahs, and the Islamic crescent were secular and therefore permitted, nativity scenes were religious and thus had no place in classrooms."

    "I empathize with my Christian brethren's outrage at the attempted banning of Christmas from American public life. America needs more of God, not less. Secularism was tried in America over the past half century. It failed miserably, leading to a 50 percent divorce rate, out of control teen sexuality and pregnancy, rampant drug abuse, and a nihilistic culture that worships money and materialism. Furthermore, as a Jew I have to object to a menorah being allowed in public property but not a nativity scene."

    By Blogger T.L. Stanley, at 1:53 AM  

  • If the 10 commandments are posted in a courthouse or a nativity scene is displayed on public land, how does that infringe on someone's religious freedom? No one is ordering you to acknowledge, read, or adhere to the commandments or a nativity scene. You are perfectly free to walk right past it w/out a second thought if you so choose.
    So I ask again, how does any of this infringe on someone's rights? How is it forcing Christianity on anyone?

    By Blogger Corie, at 6:58 AM  

  • Corie,

    It isn't, and that is part of my point.

    The entire argument for removing religious symbols from the public arena is actually part of a greater plan to change the face of America. However, as long there are reminders of religious morals these negative changes will not happen. By silencing the voice of religion there is a group of people who hope to remake America in their image, and it is an image the religious people of this country generally object to . . . loudly I might add.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 8:45 AM  

  • I absolutely agree w/ you Daniel. I don't see any other explanation for wanting these symbols removed other then to silence religious voice.
    It's why I asked the questions in the first place. To point out just how ridiculous their claim that it infringes on their rights is. It's total crap!

    By Blogger Corie, at 9:25 AM  

  • Religion in our courthouses, does that mean courthouses in our religion?

    I was raised a Seventh Day Adventist and the Seventh Day Adventist Church believes very strongly in the Seperation of Church and State.

    Don't you think God would rather we put this much energy into feeding the poor.

    By Blogger Ranando, at 10:10 AM  

  • I think it's sad that Christianity in America has become such a weak faith that it requires its symbols dot the landscape in order for its followers to feel safe in their religion. I wonder if it ever occurs to conservatives that if the Constitution was designed purely to be "rule of the majority" then we wouldn't need a Bill of Rights in the first place. Since when does a majority vote determine what faith everyone is supposed to acknowledge? However, if it's really that important to conservative Christians that everyone in America recognize that Christianity should get extra-special recognition, then I propose a compromise: in exchange for Christianity being the de facto required religion of Americans, churches will begin paying their fair share of taxes. After all, that's only fair. Christians should have to pay if they want special privaliges for their religion.

    By the way, anthony from ca: if you really think that U.S. law is based on the Ten Commandments or "BIBLICAL principles", then you seriously need to open a history book and start reading, pal. Start with Googling a few names, such as Hammurabi, Confuscious, Justinius, Sun Tzu, Mohammed and Cicero, for starters.

    By Blogger Samurai Sam, at 12:17 PM  

  • "I think it's sad that Christianity in America has become such a weak faith that it requires its symbols dot the landscape in order for its followers to feel safe in their religion."

    I hear this argument from Atheists a lot, and it is patently untrue. Christianity is by far the most powerful religion in the US, with 85% of the population calling themselves Christians. Christianity does not require the government ot prop it up, it the government that needs Christians to prop IT up.

    Does anyone stop to think that the reason we have so many Christian religious symbols in the US is because we are such a strongly Christian nation that the government has no choice but to acknowledge that fact? Has anyone stopped to think that maybe by not acknowledging this the government would have been replaced long ago for one that would?

    Try to imagine a nation of religious zealots, circa our founding and most of the 1800's as well as 1930-1960, getting fed up with the will of the people to freely express their faith being suppressed, and to have the "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" not reflect the image of the people. I submit that the government would have been voted out entirely, and replaced with deeply religious men who would have amended the Constitutin to declare Christianity the National religion. This amendment would have easily passed a vote of the people in almost any given year, and may even pass today if it were ever presented. Just imagine the monuments to Christianity that would have been erected then. Just imagine the resultant democratic theocracy that would bear very little resemblance to the secular government the Atheists cherish today.

    It is ALWAYS unwise for the government to ignore the will and beliefs of the people. The people of the US are overwhelmingly Christian. Get used to it.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 1:07 PM  

  • "I think it's sad that Christianity in America has become such a weak faith that it requires it's symbols dot the landscape in order for it's followers to feel safe in their religion."

    You just don't get it do you? It's not the symbols themselves that are the issue here. It's the the RIGHT to be able to display them. A right that some want to eliminate.
    I'd love to hear your answer to my questions. How does a nativity scene or the 10 commandments infringe on your religious freedom? How is this forcing you to submit to Christianity?
    You say "since when does a majority vote determine the faith everyone is supposed to acknowledge." No one is asking nor forcing you to acknowledge anything!! Neither are we asking for "extra-special" recognition. Since when is putting a nativity scene on display at *gasp* Christmas, asking for "extra-special" recognition? It it not what Christmas is about?

    By Blogger Corie, at 1:49 PM  

  • I pay my taxes just like you do and everyone else in America. I do not want to see your Religious Symbols on or in my government buildings. I don't want to see Muslin Symbols, Jewish Symbols, Hindu Symbols, or Budda Symbol.

    If you want to see your Religious symbols, then by all means go to your church.

    And once again, yes I'm a Christian.

    By Blogger Ranando, at 2:23 PM  

  • The people of the US are overwhelmingly Christian. Get used to it.


    Bullcrud.

    The majority of the US are C.O.I.Ns: Christians Only In Name.

    If 85% of the US were truly Christians, then the following would be true:

    Our poverty rate would be down by 85%.

    There would be 85% less SUVs on the street.

    Homes would meet only the bare minimum needs of survival.

    We would have no drug problem.

    We would have honest politicians.

    There would be no need to fuss about gun control, because in all likelihood THERE WOULD BE NO GUNS!

    Secondly, there would be no muss and no fuss about the PC Holiday speak because 85% of all Americans would have NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER with Christmas and Christmas symbols.

    Now, with that being said.

    The Christmas Tree has nothing to do with Christmas. Granted, it has long been a part of the Christmas celebration, but it is a relic from Winter Solstice and has nothing to do with the Birth of Christ.

    Nor does a wreath. Or Santa.

    So accept the fact that while 85% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, the majority of Americans are just as secular as an atheist.

    And while I'm on my soapbox...

    Yes, Christmas has been stolen. Not by atheists or liberals or homosexuals or the ACLU mind you, but by businesses, businesses who want to increase profit by any means necessary.

    You want to win back Christmas?

    Don't exchange gifts.

    Don't buy Christmas decorations.

    Don't go to Christmas parades.

    Buy an Advent calendar and read your Bible every day.

    AND DON'T CANCEL CHURCH ON CHRISTMAS DAY!!!

    And before you label me a hypocrite, don't worry. It's too late to do it this year, but my Christmas next year will be much different.

    By Blogger Son of Lilith, at 2:43 PM  

  • M. Brandon Robbins,

    Huh?

    The last half of your argument has merit for consideration, although I have never attended a church that was clsoed on Christmas. My churches have always held a Christmas mass. As fo rthe rest, i suggest you read the following book: How the Commercialization of Christmas Saved Christmas for Christians. It would expand your horizons on this topic.

    The first half is an awful lot of supposition that has very little biblical basis.

    For example, Jesus said the poor would always be with us, so having an overwhelmingly Christian nation does not mean the poor would suddenly become well-off.

    Jesus never said anything that applies to SUV's, cars, or any other automobile.

    Jesus never condemned guns, or arms in general. He did however, instruct his disciples to arm themselves on at least one occasion, and Peter had a sword on him when Jesus was betrayed at Gethsemone.

    I could continue, but I won't. There is no need.

    I will conceed that there ARE plenty C.O.I.N.s as you put it, but not enough to upset the balance of religious power in this nation.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 3:21 PM  

  • the Seventh Day Adventist Church believes very strongly in the Seperation of Church and State.
    Yes, it sure does. But when people get hysterical over nativity scenes, it kind of kills credibility on real issues.

    I couldn't care less if there are decorations for Ramadan or whatever. But then again, Ramadan is not a national holiday. Discrimination, you say? Fine, make it a national holiday. But stop the silly semantics about "Holiday trees".

    By Blogger Rebekah, at 3:30 PM  

  • "Don't you think God would rather we put this much energy into feeding the poor."

    Yes, the Bible talks about feeding the poor, and taking care of the poor and all that, but Proverbs says (and yes, this is a direct quote) "Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise." It does not say "Go to the welfare office, thou sluggard, get your free check and live high."

    But, on the Nativity thing, I also am an SDA. I believe very strongly in Separation of Church and State. But I don't believe in the Separation of God and Country. Our founding fathers didn't intend that. I don't think there is anything wrong with Nativity scences in public.

    And I have heard liberals (Alan Colmes for one) argue that Christmas doesn't even have religious background, Jesus wasn't born in December, etc. I agree with that. In fact, I know of some people (devout Christians) who don't celebrate Christmas for that very reason (I am not one of them.) But my point is that the people who are trying to get Christ out of the public spectrum don't care about any of that. They don't care about the Winter Solstice, or Pagan history, or when Jesus was born, or anything. All they're interested in is making sure they don't offend that ominous someone by - gasp - showing a slightly religious symbol.

    Nativity scences have been shown for centuries worldwide, with not a word of complaint (except from a few isolated kooks like Michael Newdow.) So why try fixing something that doesn't need fixing?

    Oh, well, that's just my humble opinion, sorry to go on and on like that :)

    By Blogger Mary Ann, at 5:15 PM  

  • "I don't think there is anything wrong with Nativity scences in public".

    Neither do I, I just don't want one on Gevernment Property.

    This country was founded on Religious Freedom, keep all Religion out and off of my Government Property.

    Decorate your own property as you see fit.

    Mary Ann, Would you want a crucifix hanging in a Government Building, I would not.

    By Blogger Ranando, at 5:29 PM  

  • No, I wouldn't want a crucifix in a Government building. But there is a difference between a Nativity scene, which is obviously a symbol of a federal holiday, and something like that, which doesn't represent a federal holiday.

    By Blogger Mary Ann, at 5:36 AM  

  • Today Nativity, tomorrow Crucifix.

    Stop it in it's tracks right now.

    By Blogger Ranando, at 6:07 AM  

  • Actually, I think having the occasional crusifix around, even in governement buildings, is a good thing.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 6:10 AM  

  • How's about a statue representing the struggle between the antichrist and the Christians as depicted in the Left Behind stories?

    I don't have much of an opinion on this matter, as I like seeing various representations of the various cultures that make up our melting pot. I wouldn't want to see JUST christian stuff being represented, but a variety of artwork is sorta okay by me.

    Having said that, as a Christian I'm dubious of what some might put up saying "this represents christian thinking..." A statue of Jesus leading a bunch of soldiers in to battle would be blasphemous to me, for instance.

    A living nativity of Mary carrying Jesus thru a Walmart would be insulting in the extreme...

    On the other hand, a display showing the Ten Commandments, the Hammurabi Code, the Iroquois Constitution, etc with some historical info might be interesting.

    Hmmmm, I reckon I've mixed opinions on the topic. 'pends on how it's done, probably. Opening it up to whatever is a bit scary, but shutting down all expression sounds even more scary.

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 6:42 AM  

  • Daniel, With all do respect. I would never want a Crucifix on any Government building and here is why.

    This the Offial Statement on the Catholic Church by the Seventh Day Adventist Church:

    How Seventh-day Adventists View Roman Catholicism -

    Seventh-day Adventists regard all men and women as equal in the sight of God. We reject bigotry against any person, regardless of race, nationality, or religious creed. Further, we gladly acknowledge that sincere Christians may be found in other denominations, including Roman Catholicism, and we work in concert with all agencies and bodies that seek to relieve human suffering and to uplift Christ before the world.

    Seventh-day Adventists seek to take a positive approach to other faiths. Our primary task is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the context of Christ's soon return, not to point out flaws in other denominations.

    The beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists are rooted in the biblical apostolic teachings and thus share many essential tenets of Christianity in common with the followers of other Christian churches. However, we have a specific identity as a movement. Our compelling message for Christians and non-Christians alike is to communicate hope by focusing on the quality of life that is complete in Christ.

    As Adventists relate to Roman Catholicism in particular, both the past and the future enter into our thinking. We cannot erase or ignore the historical record of serious intolerance and even persecution on the part of the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic system of church governance, based on extra-biblical teachings such as papal primacy, resulted in severe abuses of religious freedom as the church was allied with the state.

    Seventh-day Adventists are convinced of the validity of our prophetic views, according to which humanity now lives close to the end of time. Adventists believe, on the basis of biblical predictions, that just prior to the second coming of Christ this earth will experience a period of unprecedented turmoil, with the seventh-day Sabbath as a focal point. In that context, we expect that world religions--including the major Christian bodies as key players--will align themselves with the forces in opposition to God and to the Sabbath. Once again the union of church and state will result in widespread religious oppression.

    To blame past violations of Christian principles on one specific denomination is not an accurate representation of either history or the concerns of Bible prophecy. We recognize that at times Protestants, including Seventh-day Adventists, have manifested prejudice and even bigotry. If, in expounding on what the Bible teaches, Seventh-day Adventists fail to express love to those addressed, we do not exhibit authentic Christianity.

    Adventists seek to be fair in dealing with others. Thus, while we remain aware of the historical record and continue to hold our views regarding end-time events, we recognize some positive changes in recent Catholicism, and stress the conviction that many Roman Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ.

    _______________

    This statement was recorded on April 15, 1997, by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Administrative Committee (ADCOM) and released by the Office of the President, Robert S. Folkenberg

    By Blogger Ranando, at 6:44 AM  

  • SUVs, for the most part, are gross materialistic indulgence. Christ wouldn't have liked this.

    Christ instructed to disciples to arm themselves for defense. If everyone was truly Christian, there would be no need to defend ourselves because there would be no physical violence (except against kooks like Benny Hinn, who are using the church to further their wealth).

    I will admit that the book you spoke of, I didn't know it existed. I may give it a read-through if I can find it cheap or get it at the library. It would be interesting to see the author's logic, although I probably wouldn't agree with it.

    Perhaps the problem with Christianity in America is that there are so many different definitions of what a Christian is. It's easy to label yourself anything if you don't understand what it means, and it's equally easy to apply labels to others.

    By Blogger Son of Lilith, at 7:39 AM  

  • Did anybody else here immediately think of the thousands of county, city, and town seals across America that have crosses in them when Ranando said he didn't ever want to see a cross on a public building? Personally, I like them and I think they are an excellent reminder of our Christian heritage in this country while remaining innocuous enough to not be confusable with government prostelrtizing by any reasonable person.

    Ranando,

    I will conceed your point on the stance of the Seventh Day Adventist Church while respectfully maintaining that symbols of Christianity so not violate seperation of Church and state.

    M Brandon Robbins,
    You have a good point about the wide variety of Christian demoniations being somewhat confusing.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 11:46 AM  

  • Oh it goes FAR, FAR beyond the whole denominations thing. It seems that there is no working definition of "Christian" in the vernacular. If you think you're a Christian, then by God you're a Christian. That's the common mindset.

    If there is anything close to a hard and fast definition of a Christian, it probably goes something like this.

    1. I go to church.
    2. I tithe.
    3. I read my Bible.
    4. I am in at least one social group at my church.
    5. I like contemporary Christian music.

    And there you go. You're a Christian.

    It doesn't matter how closely you follow the teachings of Christ. If you meet those requirements, then you're a Christian.

    That is specifically what I meant. But the denominations thing--yeah, that's never made sense to me.

    By Blogger Son of Lilith, at 2:46 PM  

  • Your criteia seem a bit skewed to me, but I will not argue with you about it. Your opinion is yours to hold.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 4:58 PM  

  • Forgive me if I was unclear. That's not my criteria, but seems to be the criteria of most of this country.

    By Blogger Son of Lilith, at 5:40 PM  

  • "This country was founded on Religious Freedom, keep all Religion out and off of my Government Property."

    Wait, so religious freedom is freedom from religion? I dont think so, maybe you should read the first amendment again:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion

    Putting a symbol of any religion is hardly establishing a religion.

    and mr robbins, if you actually are a Christian following the teachings of Christ, then you know the bs you are spewing isn't a teaching of Christ.

    By Blogger Haximus, at 5:48 PM  

  • You can't have freedom of religion until you have freedom FROM religion, says I.

    And young Mr. Brandon, you're doing fine following in the steps of Jesus, pay no heed to Brother Haximus, unless he'd like to proffer some teaching of Jesus' that you're parting from?

    As Brandon has already said, those criteria are not what HE's saying is the criteria for following Jesus. Brandon is saying that this is a commonly-accepted criteria.

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 11:27 AM  

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