Nativity Scenes Are All Over Government Property, But Does Anyone Care?

The War on Christmas has been a fairly quiet affair this year for the most part. We’ve yet to have the annual fight over Congress members claiming they can’t say Merry Christmas in their holiday greetings, the usual media frenzy over whether retailers are saying “Happy Holidays” or not, or allegations of schools being denied the ability to sing carols at “Winter Concerts.”

What has been occurring this year, instead, is a mostly unnoticed but extremely massive number of nativity scenes being erected across the country. And many of them are being purposefully put on government property, just begging someone to challenge them for violating the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that these displays are far more wide-spread and purposefully provoking than in the past. Texas is leading the charge, introducing for the first time a nativity scene right at the state capitol, down in the rotunda. “It’s just to bring the joy and the hope of the birth of Christ to everyone and to use the public square as a place to do that,” Trey Trainor, the leader of  The Texas Nativity Scene Project told local news, adding, “We felt like there’s really been a backlash against Christmas and Christ being the reason for Christmas. This is a way for us to move into the public square and express what the true meaning of Christmas is.”

While that particular scene has yet to be challenged or protested, the same can’t be said for the one at the Dallas courthouse. Unhappy that the traditional nativity scene was removed because of a court challenge, protesters are staging a live nativity on the same site.

The Dallas scene wasn’t the only live nativity this year, either, as the religious right advocacy group Faith and Action held their own annual live nativity in the most public of all court steps – the Supreme Court itself. “[E]veryone loves the nativity display,” said Faith and Action’s Reverend Patrick Mahoney. “Everyone smiles and you have cab drivers and police officers snapping pictures. I think that tragically sometimes a small select group, whether one would call them “media elites” or whatever, try to sort of compress that. The good news is that the American public as a whole welcome and embrace these kinds of messages.”

In Oklahoma, the nativity scene was staged not at a courthouse or capitol, but at the governor’s mansion, yet another taxpayer funded site.

if these scenes are meant to provoke court challenges, they are certainly working. Besides the Dallas challenge, Freedom from Religion also challenged a scene in Jay, Florida’s city hall, which has been removed. Meanwhile, in Indiana, the local affiliate of the ACLU has challenged a scene in at the Franklin County, also on behalf of Freedom from Religion.

Other groups, on the other hand, are taking a slightly different approach. After learning that Michigan was preparing for a nativity scene outside their capitol, the Satanic Temple applied for their own display. Ironically, the Satanists were approved, where as the nativity sponsor fell through because he was from out of state and couldn’t follow the rule that the display be taken down every night and resurrected each morning.

At the Florida capitol, a Seinfeld-ian “festivus pole” is being displayed, meant to compete with the nativity display sponsored by the Florida Prayer Network. The pole is comprised of “A 6-foot-tall stack of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon cans,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. That’s no doubt a disappointment to anyone who knows that a true festivus pole should be made out of aluminum.

While lawsuits, beer cans and protests are becoming the biggest focus of the nativity scene battle, overall Americans really don’t think that displays on public property are that big of a deal. According to Pew Research’s latest polling, “…most Americans favor allowing religious displays like nativity scenes to be placed on government property. The survey found that 44% of U.S. adults say that Christian symbols should be allowed even if they are not accompanied by symbols from other faiths, such as Hanukkah menorahs, while another 28% say Christian symbols should be permitted as long as they are accompanied by symbols of other religions.”

Whether the public cares one way or another, don’t expect the

Photo credit: Thinkstock

99 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

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JL A.
JL A2 years ago

I wish those calling themselves Christians would spend as much time, effort and money actually doing what Christ would do in caring for those marginalized in society these days.

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Elaine Al Meqdad
Elaine Al Meqdad2 years ago

Well I have news for them! my $1000 nativity scene sure don't belong to them!!!

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Gerald L.
Gerald L2 years ago

If we decided to be nice instead of causing strife; take a little love from your heart,

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donnaa d.
donnaa D2 years ago

ty

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W2 years ago

For sure who cares, it is the festive season. Merry Christmas to everyone, everywhere.

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ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA SOMLAI2 years ago

noted

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BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

continued,
"Nativity Scenes", or "Creches", supposedly were started by St. Francis of Assisi, to teach illiterate peasants about the Birth of Jesus. {Or so I was told when I was at Assisi!}
In the city of Naples, during the 18th Century, they became an ART FORM with elaborately set scenes and gorgeously carved and dressed figures, some dressed in the elaborate and sumptuous fashions of the day, and others carved to represent peasants, and different trades and professions found in the streets of Naples in that contemporary time period. These often extremely realistically-carved and expressive figures are found in Museums and Art Collections today. They are like tiny, gorgeous sculptures. Animals, fruits, flowers, baskets, etc., were added to the realism of the scenes - which could cover quite an area. They were started in the {Catholic} Churches but became a kind of a competition among the wealthy patrons of the art...
These are definitely CHRISTIAN, tho after at first disapproving of the "graven images" of the Catholic Church, the Protestant Churches finally caved in to their popular appeal and allowed them... And they are part of the COMMERCIALIZATION OF CHRISTMAS, as the small "creches" are mass-produced...
I'd be DEFINITELY OFFENDED if I saw one on a govt property, not in someone's front yard or a Church's entrance... in fact when I was a kid, we used to LIKE going around looking at neighbors' decorations, of whatever kind, religious or secular. BUT KEEP CHURCH AND STA

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BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

US Treaty of Tripoli: Article 11:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion;
as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." The preliminary treaty began with a signing on 4 November, 1796 (the end of George Washington's last term as president).
"IS NOT IN ANY SENSE FOUNDED ON THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION."
Our Founding Fathers, FreeMasons, Deists, Unitarians, and such "Heretics", would be SPINNING IN THEIR GRAVES at the thought of Nativity Scenes ON GOVERNMENT PROPERTY instead of where they belong, on Private Property and in Churches.
DAMN RIGHT we ought to care! THEY would!!!!!

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Donn M.
Donn M2 years ago

Well, it is the Christmas season. So Merry Christmas to all and God bless.

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