News conference promoting “The Nativity Project”
“The Nativity Project,” a campaign to encourage the display of Nativity scenes throughout the United States at Christmas, has been launched by the Christian Defense Coalition and Faith and Action at a U.S. Capitol news conference.
But for several law firms that work on the growing flood of discrimination against the recognition of the national holiday because of its Christian heritage, their “season” already is in full swing.
“Sadly, we are seeing an erosion and crushing of religious freedoms across America,” said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. “This is especially true during the Christmas season where there is an open hostility toward public expressions of faith.
“We must constantly remind our public officials that the Constitution promises freedom ‘of’ religion not freedom ‘from’ religion.”
He said “The Nativity Project” offers people of faith a chance to enter the public square and share the story of Christmas.
“And this is, ‘Peace on earth, goodwill toward man,’” he said. “It is essential that the faith community not be intimidated or discouraged into surrendering their God-given First Amendment freedoms which offer to all Americans the right to publicly worship God free from government interference or harassment.”
Now in its third year, the program simply encourages citizens around the nation to display traditional Nativity scenes in public areas, such as state capitols and parks.
Lawyers at the Thomas More Law Center say their Christmas season work already has begun, with their efforts in Berkley, Mich.
There, the city council was “cowed” last winter by a threat of a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, and removed a decades-old Nativity display from city property.
But the action rejected the will of the people, who assembled behind resident Georgia Halloran as the “Berkley Citizens Vote YES to Christmas Holiday Display” and mounted a successful petition drive to overrule the city decision.
The law firm said enough signatures were gathered to put a proposed charter amendment on the Nov. 6, 2007, general election that would require the city to display a Nativity scene from the Monday following Thanksgiving to Jan. 6.
“Christmas is a national holiday,” said Halloran. “And we’re not going to let ACLU threats dictate how we publicly celebrate it.”
The law center has offered to represent the city without charge if a lawsuit develops. It already has provided assistance to Halloran’s group.
“Despite all of their public rationalizations of why the Nativity should be removed from city property, it is clear the city council acted out of fear of an ACLU lawsuit,” said Richard Thompson, president of the law center. “The council made the wrong decision, and Berkley citizens are working within the political system to correct that wrong.”
Another organization, The Rutherford Institute, also is in the middle of its Christmas campaign already. It has been busy addressing attacks on Christmas celebrations at public schools.
The Institute reports that its legal hotline already has been getting calls from parents and teachers with complaints their schools’ traditional Christmas concerts now are “winter holiday programs” and Christmas itself now is a “winter festival.”
The Rutherford Institute said it has published “The Twelve Rules of Christmas” about what can and cannot be done to celebrate the holiday.
“Whether through ignorance or fear, Americans have developed a politically correct phobia when it comes to tolerating celebrations of or references to Christmas,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the institute.
“Unfortunately, these instances of intolerance have reached absurd proportions, and people’s First Amendment rights are being trampled.”
He cited a recent incident in a Chicago suburb as an example. School officials in Oak Hill, Ill., cancelled traditional holiday celebrations including Christmas under pressure from a parent. Halloween was “fall festival” and Christmas was “winter festival.” They later relented and now plan to allow some celebrating.
The Institute reported that in past years items as offensive as Christmas carols, Christmas trees, wreaths, candy canes and even the colors red and green have been banned as part of efforts to avoid referencing Christmas, God or Christ.
And now, even Thanksgiving is being attacked, the Institute said. Last year a parent reported that teachers in that district were being told not to even mention the word “Thanksgiving” because “the Pilgrims offended the Indians” and “Thanksgiving was never intended to be thanks to God.”