A Way To Stop Government Nativity Scenes?

Brookville, Indiana residents want to keep a nativity scene on government property.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Franklin County commissioners and the Brookville Town Council demanding the removal of the scene from the courthouse lawn.

The group said that the display violates the First Amendment and said it had received a complaint about it.

Brookville Town Council President Michael Biltz said the display, owned by the city, has been at the courthouse for at least 50 years without complaint.

Just because no one’s complained about it doesn’t make it “tradition” or right. FFRF is correct about the law. (But feel free to help skew the poll on the WLWT website.)

Reader Pluto Animus sent a suggestion regarding how to make sure this sort of thing never happens again:

What if a couple of brave, warmly-dressed volunteers stood on either side of the nativity, holding large signs that read “Myth” and “Fiction”, with arrows pointing at the creche? What if the news media were alerted? The news media would find such a story — such an image — irresistible. And photos of that scene would soon be seen in newspapers, on TV and on the internet by many thousands of local people.

But this would definitely upset many, many more people than the billboards. (After all, the billboards do not question the truth of the Jesus story.) The story could very quickly go national. And when asked by news media what they hope to achieve, our protesters can simply say, “We wouldn’t be doing this if the nativity were on private property. We respect other people’s religion as long as they do not use government to promote it. We are trying to discourage them from using the government to promote the Christian religion in this way. If you don’t want us out here openly questioning your beliefs, don’t use my taxpayer dollars to promote your superstitions.”

Your thoughts regarding how effective that would be would be appreciated.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The "Eh"theist

    It would require some really tight messaging, and *one* reason why it was being done, so that your typical person catching a 90 second story at home could get the point, but it could be very effective.

    The only possible negative I could see would be for nontheists who have some sort of display up at this time of year as part of an “everyone gets to share their message” display. They would definitely feel backlash and would need to decide how to respond.

    You’d also want to prepare a good website with all the relevant info that people could be directed to when they saw this on the news.

  • Sue D. Nymme

    I really, REALLY hate the “but nobody has complained!” defense.

  • JoshBA

    I can’t see that working at all. The people looking to keep the scene won’t go “oh. I guess we should stop then.” All that will happen is the Nativity people will get pissed and dig in their heels; the media will describe the protesters as the villains; death threats (some of which credible) will be made; lawmakers will try to pass unconstitutional laws in support of Nativity scenes; and a lawsuit will be filed which ultimately results in the removal of baby Jesus.

    You can’t shame the shameless into compliance with a law they don’t agree with. Better to just skip the bullshit and go straight to the lawsuit (after giving them time to discuss it and do the right thing) which will fix the problem.

  • Tam Hunter

    Slavery was traditional, but we no longer do that. I really hate the argument that just because it has always been done it must be right.

  • Greg visiting Baghdad

    Not that I recommend skewing, but I just voted 5 times and it never told me “you have already voted.

    Good times.

  • Claudia

    Just like the billboard version of this, I don’t think this would be effective. As @The “Eh”theist said, it would require incredibly tight messaging and a truly professional, and likely national, operation.
    I’m well aware that I’m in the minority of atheists here in believing such messages are dickish and counter-productive. However I think it can be quite credibly argued that if such messages are controversial even within our community, they will likely be recieved badly by the vast majority of those outside the community. I also know that plenty of people don’t give a hot damn if we offend every single theist out there. However if the objective is to remove these anti-Constitutional displays and what we are using is media attention, then it matters that coverage and opinion be in our favor. If we produce a backlash against us politicians will have less, not more, incentive, to stay away from such displays.

    No, you either make it economically inconvenient (through lawsuits) or logistically inconvenient/unviable. If you’re going to use volunteers/media I would suggest going to the garden and setting up a good dozen or so “alternative” displays, of current, past and made up religions. Clutter up the place to the point that the Nativity is barely visible and then defy the government to take out all of them except the Christian one. You could still get coverage, it would be much harder to portray as offensive, and you might just get them to get rid of the headache by getting rid of the Nativity on public land.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    This so needs a picture. The nativity scene is outside the courthouse, round the fucking flag pole.

    http://i78.photobucket.com/albums/j118/hoverFrog/Posters/Brookville.jpg

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    So the poll boils down to:

    Should We Follow the Constitution?

  • L

    I agree with Claudia et al. I’m thinking it could backfire. Love this idea, though: Rather than provoke them and risk being portrayed on the ‘wrong’ side of the argument, beat them at their own game. Insist your ficticious holiday celebration be represented too. Show them how ridiculous their argument and beliefs are.

    I could even start to enjoy this time of year again…

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    I’m with Claudia. Fill that lawn with flying speghetti monsters and such. I’d love to see them argue to keep only the Christian display.

    also, thank you hoverfrog for the image!

  • cypressgreen

    “Nobody has ever complained.”

    Like I really believe they’d admit that someone has.

  • http://www.travisjmorgan.com Travis Morgan

    I think setting up many alternate scenes next to it would be more effective. A planet mobile could be setup that includes russels teapot. Or a scene of a stork delivering the FSM or a unicorn, or Xenu and the Galactic Federation could be featured, etc…

  • Jonas

    I agree with the sentiment stated, that it could easily backfire. — Particularly if one volunteer, who isn’t as well spoken, gets interviewed.

    I’d say insist that if one religious display is allowed on state funded property, then all should be. — including the non-religious. — But I hate to admit it. – The FFRF’s ‘there are no gods…’ sign is a little bit dickish.

    Here’s an interesting Einstein quote on the Amorality of the Christian god.

    If this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?

    - Albert Einstein, Out Of My Later Years

  • Methodissed

    If you want media attention, setup an alternate display that promotes Islam. If you want to really fire up the controversy, later slip in a baby Muhammad. With or without the baby, this would have multiple advantages.

    * Muslims have an unquestionable right to be there

    * Many Christians will freak out that Islam is being promoted by our government

    * It’s sure to grab media attention

    If baby Muhammad makes an appearance from time to time, fear of a Muslim reprisal with prevail, which may overpower their insistence on displaying their own little tyrant.

  • Robert W.

    The idea that offends the constitution with a Nativity scene is that it is promoting a religion. Russel’s tea pot, the flying spaghetti monster and the other potential displays in opposition are not religions and as such would not be allowed as a counter display. Frankly, as a Christian I would find that tactic just silly and you would not be taken seriously.

    I do think that a disclaimer from the county that says they are not promoting one religion over another and that there are people who do not believe in the Christian story of Christmas would be appropriate.

    Atheists aren’t the only ones who pay taxes and aren’t the only ones whose thoughts need to be taken into consideration but a reference to their point of view would be appropriate if this is to stay.

    I think that the tradition argument has merit. If the people in the community didn’t want it it wouldn’t be there. And I am sure that for years Atheists in that community drove by and said to themselves look at those crazy Christians. Maybe it has been part of their Christmas tradition to see when those wacko Christians would put up the display so they could mock them.

    And for those that make the argument that slavery was a tradition as well, show me where slavery was defended solely on the basis of tradition. Likewise show me where this Nativity scene has caused the same harm as slavery. Slavery was morally wrong regardless of the Constitution and i am not defending it in the slightest. But I am pointing out the ridiculous comparison.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Hmmm, I like that Einstein quote. It’d be a perfect one to display.

    If volunteers did this, I’d frankly fear for their safety and, as others have said, numerous displays would be more effective. Skip the protest and go straight to the lawsuit and, if you can’t keep the Xian nonsense out, bury it with numerous displays. Let’s have the Church Lady going, “Well, isn’t that special?” The point would be to point out to the Xians that they aren’t.

    hoverfrog, you’re really getting adept at these posters. Good job!

  • Emmet Cooney

    I promote equal rights for all to display their holiday messages. No matter what it’s called, the mid-winter solstice is historically a fertility festival, after all.

  • ML

    This is terrible and right under that flag too. Wow…I would def. be willing to help set up the other displays. I consider myself a “radical” Atheist, I like getting on people’s faces anyday, but I think that making a big stink would be against us. People would get caught up on how we are antagonists and heathens, and totally steer away from the message we’re trying to convey.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    I do think that a disclaimer from the county that says they are not promoting one religion over another and that there are people who do not believe in the Christian story of Christmas would be appropriate.

    One “slight” problem with that, Robert. That is absolutely what they are doing when they put up a religious display instead of leaving it for the churches, religious civic organizations or citizens to do so privately.

    The Catholic hospital puts a manger on the lawn right up at the edge of the sidewalk every year. I have no problem with that. The local Reform Synagogue (next door to the Catholic hospital) puts up a huge menorah every year. I look at it and think pretty, nonsense but pretty. I look at the two of them together and think ah, America! and feel proud to live in a religiously diverse country. Doesn’t send quite the same message on government property.

    Atheists aren’t the only ones who pay taxes and aren’t the only ones whose thoughts need to be taken into consideration but a reference to their point of view would be appropriate if this is to stay.

    Nope. There’s also Jews, Hindus, Wiccans, Bhuddists, etc., etc., etc., to consider. This display acts as if Christians are the only ones who pay taxes and only their thoughts need to be taken into consideration.

    I think that the tradition argument has merit. If the people in the community didn’t want it it wouldn’t be there. And I am sure that for years Atheists in that community drove by and said to themselves look at those crazy Christians. Maybe it has been part of their Christmas tradition to see when those wacko Christians would put up the display so they could mock them.

    No, it doesn’t. Tradition does not justify breaking the law. Not one little bit. Not even if the whole community does want it there and you can’t possibly know that. You’re jumping to conclusions. We do know that at least one person complained so it isn’t 100% of the population that wants it there. I can’t speak for any Atheists who live there but I know I’m not amused when I see the government endorsing religion. I am ticked and it makes me feel very unwelcome. I think of Bush the Elder’s bigoted statement that Atheists shouldn’t even be citizens and think they not only don’t want any Atheists in that town but no one who isn’t Christian.

  • Stephen P

    I suggest that the local atheists should first provide some volunteers to help move the display to the grounds of a nearby church (or the front lawn of a nearby house, if someone wanted to host it).

    If this is turned down by the owners of the display, then the second option is to put up some alternative displays, as suggested.

    If this is disallowed by the council, then I think Pluto Animus’ proposal is a good one to carry out while the law suit is in preparation. The signs should prominently include the URL of a site which explains both the constitutional issues and the reasons why we know that the nativity stories are fictional.

  • Dstephens

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Franklin-County-Indiana-Welcome-Center/273006402540

    Franklin County is on facebook if you feel like sharing your thoughts there.

  • Danny Wuvs Kittens

    Stephen, they’re breaking the fucking law. Move their own goddamn illegal shit to a place where it isn’t illegal, like a church. I’m not going to spend time away from family and friends to fix someone else’s illegal shit. No. Just no, and shame on you for suggesting it.

    I don’t think the “myth” signs would be effective. Instead, “unconstitutional!” “law breakers!” etc. That’s what they are.

    Bullshit add a disclaimer. Lets put up a muslim display in front of school and put a little sign that says “not everybody is a muslim, and here’s a link to the skepticsannotated koran”. Except it wouldn’t be that, it would be a weak refutation, probably the weakest one they could find. So is the government going to choose what website to put? I thought conservatives were for small government and lowering taxes.

    Christians care when their rights are pissed over, but they’ll piss over other people all the time. They can dish it, but they can’t take it.

  • RJ

    I am “skewing” away.

  • Danny Wuvs Kittens

    My apologies, I misread your comment Stephen.

    I thought you were a Christian and were suggesting solutions to the problem(and nativity problems in general, as in federal solutions).

    I think your suggestions are intelligent reasonable, but I am not an accommodationist. I think this should be fought, like I said earlier, strong. They’re law breakers and don’t respect the constitution, and should be treated as such. Complain, call them what they are, and sue them; that’s what I think.

  • ACN

    The Catholic hospital puts a manger on the lawn right up at the edge of the sidewalk every year. I have no problem with that. The local Reform Synagogue (next door to the Catholic hospital) puts up a huge menorah every year. I look at it and think pretty, nonsense but pretty. I look at the two of them together and think ah, America! and feel proud to live in a religiously diverse country. Doesn’t send quite the same message on government property.

    Near me there is a similar scenario with a catholic school/church, a synogogue, and a unitarian church where the local pagans like to get involved also! It makes a fun drive to my girlfriend’s place.

    But the fun and nice thing about is that the government isn’t involved. The subtle shade between religious groups celebrating their holidays, and the government announcing that they support any holiday god-myth is the difference between night and day.

    Atheists aren’t the only ones who pay taxes and aren’t the only ones whose thoughts need to be taken into consideration but a reference to their point of view would be appropriate if this is to stay.

    The correct path for the government here is to support NO opinions on religion. There should be nothing associated with anyone’s religious opinion. I don’t like the Wisconsin solution because I don’t think that trumpeting EVERYONE’s opinion has the same effect of upholding the separation of church and state as trumpeting NO ONE’s opinions.

  • http://everydayatheist.wordpress.com Everyday Atheist

    In the minority here, but I kind of like the educational potential of Pluto Animus’ idea. Yes, you can’t educate the truly die-hard, but if we make it clear that it’s not religious displays that are objectionable, but such displays on government property, maybe some middle-of-the-road religious folk will conclude we’re not so evil/unreasonable after all. Probably a pipe dream, but I do appreciate public outreach that explains the secular perspective in addition to complaining about violations.

  • ethinethin

    Brookville Town Council President Michael Biltz said the display, owned by the city, has been at the courthouse for at least 50 years without complaint.

    Of course, the United States Constitution has been there longer.

  • http://www.bluefrogdesignstudios.com/thebluefrogsays/ The Big Blue Frog

    As long as you keep opening new browser windows, you can vote in the poll until your fingers fall off. We only need about a thousand votes to swing the poll in our favor. That’s 100 readers voting ten times each. We can do that!

  • Lynn

    How about an Atheist on one side and a Muslim on the other side? Wouldn’t that be even more effective?

  • jonezart

    Does anyone remember the response to the creche in state of Washington’s capitol a couple years ago? Fun!

  • Stephen

    That is a really good idea.

  • http://www.justnbusiness.com Justin Chase

    I think it would be better if the sign had an arrow pointing to the manger and read “The Baby Mithras”.

  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    What if a couple of brave, warmly-dressed volunteers stood on either side of the nativity, holding large signs that read “Myth” and “Fiction”, with arrows pointing at the creche?

    Wow, that would be as fun as Bruce Willis holding up the “I hate Ns” sign in Harlem in the first Die Hard movie.

    Happy holidays, JoshBA!

    If you put a Christmas tree
    In the public airport,
    I will go to court and sue your ass!
    Happy holiday!

    Stephen, they’re breaking the fucking law.

    Well boo fucking hoo Danny Wuvs Kittens. Maybe you should put up a protest sign, as you rush over there on an expired registration (breaking the law!), something like ‘Zero atheists were injured in the setting up of this display’.

    What really gets me is when atheists compare their ‘plight’ to the Civil Rights Movement. Letting loose the police dogs, spraying with fire hoses, and lynchings pale in comparison to having to see religious symbols on — gasp in horror — public lands!!!

    Here’s an idea – hows abouts we go over to Arlington National Cemetery, since that’s public land and all, and remove any rosaries or other religious offerings left on the headstones. That’ll show those believers what’s what!

    Fuck their grief, can’t they see we have much more pressing issues to worry about than their dead loved ones?

  • Danny Wuvs Kittens

    “Well boo fucking hoo Danny Wuvs Kittens. Maybe you should put up a protest sign, as you rush over there on an expired registration (breaking the law!), something like ‘Zero atheists were injured in the setting up of this display’.

    What really gets me is when atheists compare their ‘plight’ to the Civil Rights Movement. Letting loose the police dogs, spraying with fire hoses, and lynchings pale in comparison to having to see religious symbols on — gasp in horror — public lands!!!

    Here’s an idea – hows abouts we go over to Arlington National Cemetery, since that’s public land and all, and remove any rosaries or other religious offerings left on the headstones. That’ll show those believers what’s what!

    Fuck their grief, can’t they see we have much more pressing issues to worry about than their dead loved ones?”

    First, this isn’t going a few miles above the speed limit downhill(something which should still be avoided) or a slightly expired registration(but seriously, how hard is it to mark a calender?). Those are minor infractions, and people rarely face punishment for them, and when they do, its minor; a small fine. I’m not upset that they’re probably breaking some ancient zoning code from 1860. I’m concerned that they’re SHITTING ALL OVER FIRST GODDAMNED AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION.

    Arlington is not the same thing. People are allowed to put things on the graves of their dead loved ones. If a church came and were putting crosses on ALL the graves, that would be wrong. I’m aware that there ARE crosses in the cemetery, which is fine, provided that dead non-Christians have an alternative option for their respective religious beliefs(or lack of). I’m pretty sure that’s the way it is. Jews get the star of David, I know. Muslims should get something different too, and atheists should too(though it can be argued that a simple cross as a grave has become a secular symbol, I still think they should have something special). Don’t put beliefs onto the dead that they didn’t have.

    If this is not the case, it should be fixed, but its also less practical. Arlington has been there many decades, and if there is a place with crosses, you can’t just rip them out of the ground.

    This nativity scene has been there two weeks, probably less. Nobody is buried in the nativity scene. Its totally practical to move it out of respect to the constitution.

    As for Christmas trees, they’re secular displays. Nowhere near the same thing as a nativity scene.

    Oh, and as for the civil rights movement, I haven’t heard anyone compare it to the secularist movement. I’ve heard people compare certain situations to Rosa Parks or MLK, and they may or may not have some merit in some respects, but I haven’t heard anyone compare us as a whole to the civil rights movement.

  • Don

    I have no problem justifying the action, if it’s a religious display on public land. It’s not as if my Christian neighbors opened up the floor for debate; they just put up a creche on public land as if all of us were Christians. They have it coming.

    That said, the risk of violence would be high, at least in my community, and there are probably other actions that have much lower risk to the participants.

  • Tony

    I personally have no issue with government sponsored nativity scenes on public land. Just as long as those displays are no more prominent than the displays of the other accouterments of the pageantry of the season. That’s right, a nativity scene is OK as long as it’s next to Santa and his elves and reindeer, a christmas tree, Frosty the Snowman and Charlie Brown.

    I tell my daughter about baby Jesus with the same gravity that I tell her about the Boy who Cried Wolf.

  • Rieux

    NLA:

    Wow, that would be as fun as Bruce Willis holding up the “I hate Ns” sign in Harlem in the first Die Hard movie.

    That’s the third “Die Hard” movie, doofus.

    The remainder of your comment is comparably well informed.

  • Claudia

    I’m aware that there ARE crosses in the cemetery, which is fine, provided that dead non-Christians have an alternative option for their respective religious beliefs(or lack of). I’m pretty sure that’s the way it is.

    Off-topic, but just so you know yes, there are options for the non-religious. In fact, the military is pretty awesome in that respect, and allows for a large variety of symbols, including the American Atheists A with electronic orbits and the Humanist H.

  • pansies4me

    Ugh, I live in the Cincinnati area, which is the home of WLWT. I hadn’t heard of this, but it does not surprise me. The comments after the article are so typical of arrogant asshole Christians (not all are) who have the curious idea that in a democracy the majority gets to decide whether a minority has any rights. I thought about chiming in but I’m so pissed off I couldn’t possibly be coherent. They all think it’s a xtian nation anyway, so you can’t argue with the willfully ignorant. I bet they’re all goddamn Tea Partiers too. Morons.

  • Godless Lawyer

    Invite the media so that some local news anchor can wag his finger and tut-tut the mean old atheists for interfering with ‘tradition’?

    I’d stick with the courts.

  • JSug

    A similar tactic worked pretty well here in Washington state, as some here may recall. Several years back, a private individual sued the state to allow privately funded holiday displays in the capitol building, so he could donate funds to display a nativity scene. In 2008, the state gave in, but rightly made it known that this meant anyone who put in the proper requests could put up a display. So the local FFRF chapter got authorization to put up a (fairly innocuous) plaque. There was the expected uproar, and the sign was actually vandalized at one point. Then the floodgates opened. In 2009, the state started getting spammed with dozens of requests from all sorts of groups, to the point where they put a complete moratorium on any private displays. All we have now is a totally non-sectarian “holiday tree.”

    There is, of course, backlash. Public opinion is that the mean atheists ruined things for everyone else.

    The awesome footnote of this whole drama is that the guy who originally started the law suit had no problem with the FFRF sign. He actually vocally supported their right to display it.

  • Shawn Wilkening

    I live nearby, and in case nobody else has realized it Brookville, IN is maybe a half an hour from the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky. So yeah, that’s what you’re dealing with here.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Im curious as to what the Christians actually get from Government displays. I can understand they want to decorate their homes and I can understand they want their church to have some decorations – I cant quite understand what value they derive from having the Governments time and money spent on these displays (well other than those who keep insisting that America is a Christian nation!)

  • Deepak Shetty

    Robert W

    Russel’s tea pot, the flying spaghetti monster and the other potential displays in opposition are not religions and as such would not be allowed as a counter display.

    So treat all religions equally – but its ok to discriminate against non believers – eh? Well atleats you are consistent
    Discriminates against gays – Check
    Discriminates against atheists – Check
    Now all we need to know is if you discriminate against women and you have your trifecta.

    I do think that a disclaimer from the county that says they are not promoting one religion over another and that there are people who do not believe in the Christian story of Christmas would be appropriate.

    No that doesnt work. You’d also have to light up for Diwali and sacrifice goats for Bakri Eid to prove that you arent endorsing any religion rather than empty words designed to circumvent the consititution.

  • http://shellyfromholtz.blogspot.com Shelly

    Dutifully skewed! It’s 50-49 now… impressive.

  • Spherical Basterd

    For alternative displays let us not forget Festivus and a display of “The Feats of Nekkid Greased Up Strength”. It must be performed by the least nekkidable amongst us and I’ll go first.

  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    Danny Wuvs Kittens, it’s the principle of the thing, right, since no one is actually harmed in any way, shape or form by nativity displays, right?

    If it’s the principle then the same principle applies to Arlington National Cemetery. Religious displays on public property are wrong. Headstones at Arlington National Cemetery are public property. Therefore religious displays on headstones at Arlington National Cemetery are wrong. QED.

    Who put them there doesn’t matter, since ‘the Constitution’ doesn’t say religious displays are OK depending on who physically puts them on public lands.

    Anyway, what makes me weary of this stuff is not constitutional law. It is doing damage to your own cause. Pissing people off does not win new atheists, does not make non-atheists more tolerant of atheists, etc. It just reinforces the stereotype of the angry, mean-spirited atheist. It literally accomplishes nothing else. And pissing off people for the sake of pissing them off is a good thing why exactly?

    Every time I hear about one of these trivial lawn furniture fights on the news, I’m reminded of that classic song from South Park Bigger Longer Uncut:

    What the fuck are we fighting for?
    Why the fuck did we start this war?

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    Flooding the channel with other displays would be one way to dilute it’s respect and raise awareness. But, I do think we should continually make it known that our real goal is to get all displays removed. There may be a lot of people who will be uncomfortable having to explain to their kids as they drive by that other people believe other things. I do think that the signs pointing at the display is a good last option. It’s exercising our freedom of speech. And, it’s going to make a lot more people uncomfortable to the point where many Christians would rather the nativity be taken down, rather then have their kids exposed to something that might foster doubt. We could float the idea for a few years, and when we do it they can’t say that we didn’t give them fair warning (not that they haven’t had it already). Also, if it’s done, all displays by freethought groups should come down everywhere…we need to be consistent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    If it’s the principle then the same principle applies to Arlington National Cemetery. Religious displays on public property are wrong. Headstones at Arlington National Cemetery are public property. Therefore religious displays on headstones at Arlington National Cemetery are wrong.

    Individuals graves are public property? I don’t think so. I realize Arlington itself is but once you plant a body in a piece of land, I’d think the grave itself and the matching headstone rather becomes that of the deceased. Unless, of course, you think that the US government would be perfectly within it’s rights to some day plow up all those graves and build a Federal building there.

    Frankly, I think it’s cool that they provide a graveyard for soldiers killed in battle. It — and respect which would certainly include their putting the religious symbol of their choice on their headstone — is the least they owe those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

    You’re seriously comparing apples and oranges here, dude.

  • Robert W.

    Deepak,

    So treat all religions equally – but its ok to discriminate against non believers – eh? Well atleats you are consistent

    How is not allowing a Flying Spaghetti Monster display discriminating against atheists when the idea is to display traditional holiday decorations?

    If atheists want to be taken seriously I don’t think that an attempt to use the satirical Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Tea Pot would work. You would have to tell the County that you believe in those as a religion and that there is a history within this country of people celebrating those religions during Christmas with certain decorations and you want equal time and space. Of course you couldn’t do that because you would be lying when you say any of that particularly because you don’t believe there is such a being. They would rightfully say prove it is a religion and to be consistent with why the nativity scene is up,prove its secular historical significance as a holiday event in this country.

    The secular argument for Nativity scenes has been that they represent the historical nature of this holiday in this country. See Lynch v. Donelly as an example of that argument. You simply don’t have that with the other displays that you mention.

  • Steve

    People can choose which religious emblem to put on headstones at Arlington.

    You’ll find Muslim crescents there. And Stars of David. And Buddhist wheels. And all kinds of other stuff:
    http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/11/11/powerful-monuments-to-service/

    There are tons of symbols to pick from. Including really, really obscure ones:
    http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/funeral_information/authorized_emblems.html

    You can even have an atheist sign (#16)! Or a Wiccan pentagram (#37). The first link contains examples of both

  • Deepak Shetty

    Robert W

    How is not allowing a Flying Spaghetti Monster display discriminating against atheists when the idea is to display traditional holiday decorations?

    You aren’t representing our thoughts on the season. You keep using the word traditional – then please use 10,000 years as your reference point.

    If atheists want to be taken seriously I don’t think that an attempt to use the satirical Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Tea Pot would work

    possibly. Satire is wasted on the religious – most aren’t smart enough to get it as you aptly demonstrate.

    The secular argument for Nativity scenes

    Oh please. Make up your mind is Christmas a secular event or a religious one.

  • pansies4me

    This has now made it onto the website for WCPO.com, another Cincy area news channel. I viciously responded to the self-righteous assholes on the comment boards, I just couldn’t help myself. At the end I wrote that I am a proud member of FFRF and we’ll be fighting this illegal endorsement of religion forever. I also wrote, “Atheists- we’re here, we’re there, we’re everywhere… BOO!”

    I’m so childish. I’m also sure I’ll be told to leave the country, it’s CHRISTmas you dirty atheist, perhaps a few prayers will be uttered in Jebus’ name – I probably shouldn’t go back.

    Oh yeah, Liberty Counsel has written them a letter saying they will help fight the evil atheists pro bono. Big surprise, huh?

  • Robert W.

    Deepak,

    You aren’t representing our thoughts on the season. You keep using the word traditional – then please use 10,000 years as your reference point.

    That doesn’t show discrimination. Not including a menorah would. By tradition, I mean in this country. No need to go back 10,000 years for that point of reference.

    possibly. Satire is wasted on the religious – most aren’t smart enough to get it as you aptly demonstrate.

    Oh I’m smart enough to get it and probably smarter then those who throw this particular argument around as if it means something. It’s just not good satire nor does it advance your cause in relation to a Nativity scene argument.

    Oh please. Make up your mind is Christmas a secular event or a religious one.

    I was giving you the Supreme Court’s rationale as to why even a christian symbol of a Christian holiday would have a secular purpose which would make it constitutional. Is that clear enough for you to understand?

  • Deepak Shetty

    By tradition, I mean in this country. No need to go back 10,000 years for that point of reference.

    Why ever not? Certainly native americans are probably offended by your casual dismissal of their traditions.

    It’s just not good satire

    Why not? It exposes just how ridiculous religious beliefs are since you can no more disprove the FSM exists than I can disprove that Jesus turned water into wine.

    I was giving you the Supreme Court’s rationale as to why even a christian symbol of a Christian holiday would have a secular purpose

    Ill read Scalia whenever I want to know that. It’s idiotic reasoning.Even most Christians will admit that the cross is a religious symbol – its made secular whenever someone wants to circumvent the constitution not because they actually believe it has a secular purpose.

  • Robert W.

    Deepak,

    Why ever not? Certainly native americans are probably offended by your casual dismissal of their traditions.

    Maybe you could enlighten me on the Christmas traditions of the Native Americans.

    Why not? It exposes just how ridiculous religious beliefs are since you can no more disprove the FSM exists than I can disprove that Jesus turned water into wine.

    Actually it doesn’t. It just mocks religious belief without making a point at all. Without exposing a defect in religious belief it simply makes the person saying it sound silly.

    Ill read Scalia whenever I want to know that. It’s idiotic reasoning.Even most Christians will admit that the cross is a religious symbol – its made secular whenever someone wants to circumvent the constitution not because they actually believe it has a secular purpose.

    Like it or not, the history of this country includes a robust and profound Christian heritage that is part of our makeup and our history. There is a secular purpose in representing this history and reflecting it in our public square. That doesn’t change the nature of the symbols at all, but it does show that the state can have secular purpose in presenting it.

    It would be like telling the story of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving without mentioning their Christian beliefs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    I also wrote, “Atheists- we’re here, we’re there, we’re everywhere… BOO!”

    I like! Two thumbs up. Please stay.

  • alex

    Nah, we don’t need state-sponsored unemployment programs, education, or health care; however, it’s absolutely imperative that the government advertises moar jesus. Long-standing traditions can’t survive without government support, don’t you know?

  • Deepak Shetty

    Robert W

    Maybe you could enlighten me

    Sorry Im a mere mortal. Some tasks are beyond me.
    Christmas traditions of the Native Americans.
    The point is you cannot draw an arbitrary line in time and say after this is tradition – before this no tradition. the fact that the native americans dont have a Christmas tradition should tell you that you cannot make an argument like “Christmas displays are traditional”

    It just mocks religious belief without making a point at all

    Ok. What is the difference between the stories made up by
    a. Bobby Henderson
    b. Joseph Smith
    c. L Ron Hubbard?
    Assume for a moment that you don’t know that FSM is satire. read what each of the above had said, what proof they have submitted, the evidence for claims made. Then conclude why a) is *ineffective* satire b) is a religion and c) is a cult.

    Like it or not, the history of this country includes a robust and profound Christian heritage

    And you are free to celebrate that as an individual or a family or in church. Whats more some of us will join you if you restrict it to just that much. However what is also true is that this nation was founded on secular principles even if some of the founders were Christians. They went out of their way to spell it out. You are the one who ignores this heritage. Government has no business putting up religious scenes – its not its job. I still dont get what you derive from seeing religious displays on government premises (feel free however to decorate your homes and churches and you would even get compliments from non believers).

  • Robert W.

    Deepak,

    The point is you cannot draw an arbitrary line in time and say after this is tradition – before this no tradition. the fact that the native americans dont have a Christmas tradition should tell you that you cannot make an argument like “Christmas displays are traditional”

    Probably the best way to answer this comment is from the Lynch v. Donnelly opinion itself:

    Based on the record in this case, the city has a secular purpose for including the creche in its Christmas display, and has not impermissibly advanced religion or created an excessive entanglement between religion and government. The display is sponsored by the city to celebrate the Holiday recognized by Congress and national tradition and to depict the origins of that Holiday; these are legitimate secular purposes. Whatever benefit to one faith or religion or to all religions inclusion of the creche in the display effects, is indirect, remote, and incidental, and is no more an advancement or endorsement of religion than the congressional and executive recognition of the origins of Christmas, or the exhibition of religious paintings in governmentally supported museums. This Court is unable to discern a greater aid to religion from the inclusion of the creche than from the substantial benefits previously held not violative of the Establishment Clause. As to administrative entanglement, there is no evidence of contact with church authorities concerning the content or design of the exhibition prior to or since the city’s purchase of the creche. No expenditures for maintenance of the creche have been necessary, and, since the city owns the creche, now valued at $200, the tangible material it contributes is de minimis. Political divisiveness alone cannot serve to invalidate otherwise permissible conduct, and, in any event, apart from the instant litigation, there is no evidence of political friction or divisiveness over the creche in the 40-year history of the city’s Christmas celebration. Pp. 465 U. S. 680-685.

    That is the point I am making.

    Ok. What is the difference between the stories made up by
    a. Bobby Henderson
    b. Joseph Smith
    c. L Ron Hubbard?
    Assume for a moment that you don’t know that FSM is satire. read what each of the above had said, what proof they have submitted, the evidence for claims made. Then conclude why a) is *ineffective* satire b) is a religion and c) is a cult.

    a. A study of how this “religion” came about, a study of its founder that would have to admit that he doesn’t believe what he is saying shows it is an attempt at satire.

    b. A study of the history of this religion, the fact that people who follow it believe it to be true reveal that it is a real religion. Some would however call it a cult

    c. Same answer for b. The people who believe in it don’t think it is a cult and think that it is a true religion, however most looking outside would call it a cult.

    However what is also true is that this nation was founded on secular principles even if some of the founders were Christians. They went out of their way to spell it out. You are the one who ignores this heritage. Government has no business putting up religious scenes – its not its job.

    Despite the establishment clause, not every acknowledgment of religion by the government is a violation. As the supreme court stated:

    This Court’s interpretation of the Establishment Clause comports with the contemporaneous understanding of the Framers’ intent. That neither the draftsmen of the Constitution, who were Members of the First Congress, nor the First Congress itself saw any establishment problem in employing Chaplains to offer daily prayers in the Congress is a striking example of the accommodation of religious beliefs intended by the Framers. Pp. 465 U. S. 673-674.

    (c) Our history is pervaded by official acknowledgment of the role of religion in American life, and equally pervasive is evidence of accommodation of all faiths and all forms of religious expression and hostility toward none. Pp. 465 U. S. 674-678.

    So I don’t think I am ignoring our heritage and a public display of a nativity scene recognizes that heritage

  • Deepak Shetty

    Robert W
    Sigh. Try an experiment. Ask Christians innocently whether Christmas/The Cross/ The nativity scene are religious symbols or secular ones. Note most will answer “religious” – birth of their lord and all that.

    Then ask whether Government should have a religious display on its property given the constitution which states it shouldn’t endorse (ignore for a moment whether a religious display is an endorsement, assume it is) any religion – Now watch how many of the people who stated that Christmas is religious change to its also secular/traditional etc etc – inspite of the fact that the term secular is mutually exclusive with religious.

  • Kirk

    I have a solution to this whole problem. All athiests stay out of Brookville until Christmas is over. Then, If you want, come on back. If not stay away forever. You most likely don’t contribute to anything good anyway.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X