It now apparently takes lawyers to have a “Merry Christmas” in Bethlehem.
That’s after a dispute arose in Bethlehem, New York, over a “Merry Christmas” sign that has appeared on town property in past years.
This year, city officials decided it had to come down, because they feared it would violate the Constitution by entangling government and faith.
But the Alliance Defending Freedom contended in a letter that there’s nothing to worry about.
“No one should fear that saying ‘Merry Christmas’ on a sign like this will violate the Constitution. It does not,” said ADF Legal Counsel Joseph La Rue. “The courts, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, have been clear that the government can erect Christmas signs and displays, including even Nativity scenes, without having to fear a constitutional violation.”
ADF explained the town began displaying holiday greetings some years ago when it allowed a Jewish group to post a Menorah and the words “Happy Hanukkah” as a temporary display.
Later, a Dr. Elena Marcelle purchased a sign with the words “Merry Christmas” for similar posting.
It appeared for two years, but this year, officials consulted their city attorney and “decided that the Merry Christmas sign could not be placed on the town’s property” because of worries about the Establishment Clause.
But a multitude of precedents exist for allowing such a message.
The tax-funded National Gallery displays religious art, “In God We Trust” is the national motto, executives proclaim Christmas as a national and state holiday, and even the U.S. Supreme Court chamber is decorated with a notable and permanent symbol of religion: Moses with the Ten Commandments.
“If all these government displays honoring the nation’s religious heritage do not violate the Establishment Clause, the town’s ‘Merry Christmas’ sign certainly does not,” ADF wrote.
“In Lynch, the court noted that ‘to forbid the use of this one passive symbol – the crèche – at the very time people are taking note of the season with Christmas hymns and carols in public schools and other public places, and while Congress and legislatures open sessions with prayers by paid chaplains would be a stilted over-reaction contrary to our history and to our holdings.'”
ADF said the “irony is not lost on us that your town’s name is Bethlehem.”
“Christians believe that, in the Bethlehem of old, there was no room in the inn for the Christ child. We hope that Bethlehem, New York, will make room for a sign to wish those who drive by the Four Corners a ‘Merry Christmas’ in recognition of the importance of this holiday to many of Bethlehem’s people.”