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War on Christmas?

Are atheists grinches for their war on Christmas?Catholic League president Bill Donohue is hot under the collar about the War on Christmas.  He’s annoyed at some of the requirements of living in a country governed by a secular Constitution.  He laments:

A school counselor at an Arkansas elementary school has been told that she must remove her posting of a nativity scene on her billboard; her decoration was permitted for more than 20 years. Tulsa, Oklahoma has long had a Christmas parade, but this year it was renamed the Holiday parade.

And would it have been a problem if a school counselor had been told to remove public displays of a Wiccan celebration for Samhain or a Satanic celebration for the winter solstice?  Or if city money had been prevented from funding celebrations of the Hindu festivals of Holi or Diwali?

The Constitution demands that public schools and publicly funded celebrations be religion-neutral.  Isn’t that the best for both the Christian and the atheist?

In another article:

There are two ways government can practice neutrality: the tolerant way, which is to allow all world religions a limited period of time to display their wares in the public square; and the intolerant way, favored by liberals, which is to censor everyone.  We vote for the former.

And then you have cases like Santa Monica, in which 21 spots for displays in a public park were distributed by lottery.  Atheist organizations won 18 of them, and some Christians are up in arms.  Sometimes when you play the “allow all religions time to display their wares” game, it backfires.

Here’s a simple solution: avoid using public land or buildings for religious displays.  Easy, right?

Donohue seems to imagine that religions don’t have the opportunity to spread the word or that their existence is a mystery to people.  Or perhaps he fears that Christians are so precarious in their faith that they must be frequently reminded of it.

Either he’s out of touch with reality or he doesn’t trust that Christianity’s message is compelling.  Neither casts him in a good light.

Photo credit: Wikimedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Bob Calvan

    Amen, I agree with Bob!

    Of course all ye’ sinners ( and Paul the J.W.) that Jesus Christ is Lord. ( Jehovah)
    For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Kurios)” (Luke 2:11 ESV)

    A brief note on this verse that is often noted for its Davidic-messianic proclamation, but we should not fail to note that the angel’s message of good news was the incarnation of a divine messiah, for it is unintelligible in this context that Kurios (rendered for Yahweh in the Septuagint) could mean anything less than that God himself has entered his creation.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      Aren’t you a bit hard on Paul the JW? He follows Jesus Christ as well.

  • Rick T

    The Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution and both noteworthy for many reasons, but in common they hold the proposition of a Creator to whom citizens are beholden. This was their view and was a founding principle on which the nation was founded. Clearly established as well was the principle that the government should not and may not establish a national religion. Yet they did not prohibit the government nor its employees from being friendly toward that very religion that had inspired the seeking and establishment of a land in which they would be free to worship their chosen religion.

    The same founders encouraged prayer, worship and other activities on public land and in the nation’s capital rotunda. They did so in a particularly Christian fashion while not establishing preference for a particular national Christian denomination.

    Many of the founders and early thinkers in America spoke out on the character of religion which motivated the nation’s founding. Patrick Henry stated, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religion but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We shall not fight alone. God presides over the destinies of nations.”

    No parallel history of connection exists of Wiccan or Satanic influence in our founding fathers’ collective history. That is why it is appropriate for government to encourage religions like Christianity to have prominent influence on the behavior of citizens, while not discriminating against those who hold other beliefs. It is acceptable to allow public land and property for peaceful demonstrations of faith in a God who encourages good behavior.

    Why discourage such public expression?

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      The Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution and both noteworthy for many reasons, but in common they hold the proposition of a Creator to whom citizens are beholden.

      Oh? That’s news to me. Show me in the Constitution (Preamble or elsewhere) where it mentions a creator.

      This was their view and was a founding principle on which the nation was founded.

      You’ve lost me. The Constitution is the foundational law of the land, and it says nothing about Christianity.

      Patrick Henry stated, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religion but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We shall not fight alone. God presides over the destinies of nations.”

      Yes, my fellow Virginian Patrick Henry was strongly religious. Indeed, he was a leader in the group that thought that a clear Christian statement should be part of the Constitution. That group lost.

      Why discourage such public expression?

      A trick question perhaps? Because it’s unconstitutional.

      • Rick T

        Bob,

        You are correct. I misspoke. The Constitution refers only to the year of our Lord, but the preamble is silent on the creator. The Declaration of Independence is not. Want to deal with the founders’ expressed views there?

        As for unconstitutional, the Supreme Court would disagree.
        (1) Publicly displayed nativity scenes: Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971); County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, 492 U.S. 573 (1989).
        (2) Privately sponsored nativity scenes in public: Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board v. Pinette, 115 S. Ct. 2440 (1995) and
        (3) Doe v. Small, 964 F.2d 611 (7th Cir. 1992) (en banc).
        (4) Christmas Carols in Public Schools: Florey v. Sioux Falls School District 49-5, 619 F.2d 1311 (8th Cir.), cert denied, 449 U.S. 987 (1980).

        Christian activism usually involves helping the sick, the poor, orphans, and the like. And you want to discourage this group from celebrating publicly? To what advantage?

        I will be happy to visit my local atheist, Wiccan or Satanic home for children or research hospital. Can you provide the address for same? When you do, they can have the same respect in the public arena.

        Rick

      • Retro

        Rick said: “The Declaration of Independence is not. Want to deal with the founders’ expressed views there?”

        And what are these views? That the power to govern comes from the people themselves and NOT from a God appointed monarch? The view that people should be whatever religion they believe in rather than the Catholic Church or the one chosen by the King?

        The term “Creator” is a deistic term. The US Constitution didn’t use the name Jesus Christ, or mention the Bible. Why would they use a generic term for God rather than Jesus, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, or The Trinity?

        Rick said: “Christian activism usually involves helping the sick, the poor, orphans, and the like. And you want to discourage this group from celebrating publicly? To what advantage?”

        How does a nativity scene on a COURTHOUSE lawn help the poor or orhpans and the like?

        Rick said: “I will be happy to visit my local atheist, Wiccan or Satanic home for children or research hospital.”

        How many of the doctors and nurses are atheists? How many research scientists are atheists? How many of the donations and volunteers come from other non-Christian religions?

        Just because religions have a compulsion to put their religious stamp on everything doesn’t mean that non-religious people haven’t contributed anything at all.

        Rick said: “When you do, they can have the same respect in the public arena.”

        Again, how exactly does a nativity scene on a COURTHOUSE lawn help the poor or orhpans?

        If it’s about “respect”, then Christians should be open to other faiths and atheists placing displays too. The FFRF simply asks that everyone follow the pre-existing laws.

        All you hear in the news is that the FFRF is demanding that nativity scenes to be taken down. This is a purposeful misrepresentation! These pre-existing laws simply state that the US Gov. should not own, maintain, or otherwise pay for these displays. An outside group must own, maintain, and place the display.

        Also, these laws state that everyone should have equal access to placing a display, regardless of religion (or lack of religion).

        If these two requirements are not met, THEN and ONLY THEN will it be required for that nativity scene to be removed from public property.

        Rick, please explain to me why these nativity scenes can’t be placed in front of a pre-existing church building? What’s the need for it to be on PUBLIC property? Is God going to damn Christians to Hell for not putting a plastic baby Jesus holding the Ten Commandments in front of every courthouse?

      • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

        (Retro’s pretty much covered these points. Here is my belated reply to Rick.)

        The Declaration of Independence is not. Want to deal with the founders’ expressed views there?

        It’s a little tangential, being a very important historical document but one that isn’t relevant to US law today, but let me know if you have relevant thoughts on this.

        As for unconstitutional, the Supreme Court would disagree.

        I’m not up on what these cases concluded (though I am familiar with the famous Lemon Test), so fill me in.

        Christian activism usually involves helping the sick, the poor, orphans, and the like.

        My only demand is that all have the chance to display themselves publicly or none (the latter being my preference). I’m not sure how I’ve stomped on the sick, poor, and orphans with that.

        When you do, they can have the same respect in the public arena.

        Are you saying that groups earn the privilege to have a display on public land during December? I don’t think that’s the way the law reads.

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