There has been a great deal of discussion in the media in recent years about the celebration of Christmas in the public domain. Some have asserted that displays of the Nativity scene and symbols such as the cross are religious and therefore have no place on public property because of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
The Establishment/Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is a two pronged statement that prohibits an official state religion, like the Church of England, while clearly upholding the right to religious practice and expression. The anti-religionists give the broadest interpretation to the Establishment Clause, while the Free Exercise component is viewed in the narrowest possible way.
If federal, state or local governments were setting up churches or other places of worship and encouraging or mandating people to worship at the state church a religion would have been established. However allowing private groups or individuals, including churches, temples or mosques, to utilize public spaces for gatherings or religious displays should be no more considered the establishment of religion than permitting a fifth grade art exhibit depicting “Mother Earth” on Earth Day.
To believe that such exhibits violate the Establishment Clause is to take such a broad interpretation of it as to strain credulity. The intent of the framers relative to the scope of the clause is evident since the same First Congress that proposed the Bill of Rights also opened its legislative day with prayer and voted to apportion federal dollars to establish Christian missions in the Indian lands.
In my opinion, those earnest worshipers of the Establishment Clause, who on other issues often look upon the Constitution as a “living, breathing document,” are less concerned with the government establishing a religion than they are with marginalizing those who actually have one.
The ACLU, which was established by a Marxist, amazingly seems to battle even the most benign expressions of faith in the public square, such as The Boy Scouts use of a public park, while at the same time vigorously defending the rights of organizations such as NAMBLA, which advocates and promotes the vilest crimes imaginable, citing “free speech.” I suppose the warm waters of free speech end at the shoreline of religious expression. Hypocrisy never had a more shining avatar.
There is not simply a “War on Christmas” taking place in our country. There is a more fundamental conflict of values in progress with underlying agendas on both sides. The groups and individuals that TV commentator Bill O’Reilly refers to as “secular progressives” are aggressively trying to remove all expressions of faith from all public venues.
They want “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. They want “In God We Trust” removed from our currency. They want crèches, the Ten Commandments, and Christian crosses removed from every public space. In short they want any evidence of religious faith confined strictly to private property.
Why should we care about this “culture war?” We should care because by marginalizing Christianity in particular, the secular progressives will move a step closer to their dream of an America without God, Who demands certain behavioral norms that inconveniently conflict with the laissez faire moral attitudes of 21st century America. The ACLU and other radical “progressive” organizations want to manipulate what America sees and hears while maintaining their imagined status as defenders of “free speech.”
They know that if you marginalize God by confining religious expression to private property you limit and diminish the message. By limiting the message, your secular progressive message has less competition in the public marketplace of ideas. They don’t want children to see a Nativity scene on a courthouse lawn and be curious about the Child in the manger.
Once you limit religion to the private sector, then you have less resistance to your goal of a Godless, faithless, libertine America where the only behavior not tolerated is the expression of faith in God. Nothing else explains the rabidity with which the secular agenda is being pursued today, after over two hundred years of mostly peaceful coexistence of government and religion in our country.
The imaginary “wall of separation” between religion and government does not mandate that religion be shoved out of public life. It simply means what Jefferson and the other framers intended and that is the prohibition of formal state religion - nothing more.
The soothing words of those who see no problem banishing God from public life, whether it is a cross on public property or the act of wishing someone Merry Christmas at the mall, are calculated to make the average American believe that all is well and that there is really no problem with keeping religious expression strictly in the private arena.
They even try to foist upon us the canard that somehow public expression of religious faith “cheapens and demeans” that faith. Institutions like the ACLU and their fellow travelers, such as George Soros, don’t spend tens of millions of dollars every year fighting public religious expression and traditional values for nothing. They are cleverly hiding their true intent, hoping that the apathetic majority won’t notice – until it is too late.