A New York town was at the center of an atheist’s demands to remove religious references from an annual Christmas event.
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Elaine Spaziano organized “Christmas on the Canal” for 17 years. It became a tradition for most of the residents of Spencerport, New York. But like every good Christmas story, there was a Grinch.
An atheist complained to city officials about the annual celebration because it included carols, tree lighting, a nativity scene and other festivities. In response, the town told Elaine to remove religious references and to secularize the event by changing “Christmas” to “holiday”, and getting rid of such displays as the nativity scene.
Elaine refused and the town pulled its sponsorship, seemingly ending the annual tradition. But not unlike that Who’s down and Whoville, the community rose up in support of the event and provided the necessary funding to continue the annual celebration.“Christmas on the Canal” continues to this day – though I don’t know if the town sponsors it.
Cities across the country need to understand that the law allows your town to sponsor such displays so long as the displays contain the right mixture of the sacred and the secular. Or, as the Supreme Court has said:
City sponsored Christmas displays are permissible under the Constitution so long as there is no endorsement of religious faith and the display is, as the Court noted, “simply a recognition of cultural diversity.”
So this Christmas, don’t let your town be a Scrooge. It’s okay to celebrate Christmas on the Town Square.
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