CHRISTMAS 2014 was special for certain and to say it was special for the American Nativity Scene ("ANS") would be an understatement. We can look back on what was accomplished - and it was plenty. We are winning this one in keeping Christ in Christmas for certain.
The American Nativity Scene, armed with America's leading pro bono Law
firm- The Thomas More Society, while working with the blessing of our
special benefactor/angel, shipped over 90 Nativity Scenes to 24 different states
across this great country during Christmas 2014. Many of these Nativity Scenes were placed in public parks, libraries, farm roads and government buildings but most importantly four went to state capitol buildings in Michigan, Nebraska, Texas and Georgia. This year we managed to have displays in IL (7th year), FL (2d year), RI (3rd year), GA (1st year), MI (1st year), TX (1st year), and NE (1st year), with others having arranged for displays in MS, in WI, and in WA. We also arranged for a display on the lawn outside the Governor's mansion in OK. We owe a great deal of thanks to the Thomas More Society founder Thomas Brejcha on his assistance in this effort.
There may be other Capitol displays, but as yet we haven't heard of them or learned about them. We now have eleven states across America (39 to go) recognizing the constitutionally guaranteed rights of its citizens, to openly practice their religious faith in the public square. The "little people" such as Kathie Jackson in Oklahoma, Anne Witt in Georgia, Shannon Stangler in Michigan, Arlene Sawicki in Illinois, and Christine Delgado in Nebraska, all willing to stand up and be heard on this critical issue of freedom of religious speech.
All others who have considered getting involved should take confidence
in a recent poll by The Washington Times of 1508 individuals held
December third to the fifth. It showed a overwhelming majority of 72% of the
citizens saying they agreed that religious scenes displayed on PUBLIC property, by PRIVATE individuals should be allowed as our constitution allows.
We must all realize that the private funding of our Nativity Scenes
represents our government merely being the gate keeper up holding free speech. Your efforts in this area are "fully clothed and armored" with the full
protection of the first amendment of the United States Constitution, the Supreme law of our land. State Capitols and parks are not religious buildings or settings: they are open to all citizens of faith, or of no faith. This factoid
being one of the key reasons our great country was founded.
Look it up! No where in the United States Constitution will you find
the words/concepts Separation of Church and State. Quite the contrary- the
Supreme Court has consistently ruled the oft used "Establishment Clause" that
forbids the establishment of one state religion for all, does not require a
state entity to exclude private religious speech from public forums. That is a
consistency that there is no violation for our Government to enact a neutral
policy that happens to benefit religion.
We need to realize this policy cuts both ways on an issue such as the Nativity Scene. We have seen those who want to remove any signs of the Christ child from Christmas and their attempt to end all efforts to celebrate this Holy Day in the public square. An example of this are the signs that proclaim the honoring of satan.
Is it worth all the effort to put up these displays in more venues, esp. in State Capitols? The ANS, the Thomas More Society, our anonymous benfactor and, most importantly, many Americans emphatically believe the answer is YES. The public debate that the Nativity Scene displays trigger is a very healthy debate and one whose resolution is very important in terms of our re-shaping the contours of our more recently mis-shapen American culture. Far too many individuals react in a negative way to witnessing ANY public displays of religious symbols and beliefs. In many cases these are the same folks who insist that religious beliefs -- and worse, the values that arise out of those beliefs -- have no legitimate role to play in our public debates over the shape and content of our public policies. In that view, religious beliefs are mere "superstitions" which ought to be shunned by intelligent, rational citizens, let alone by policymakers. This yields a meager harvest of normative, values-sensitive "inputs" in our competitive marketplace of ideas, leaving our legislators and other politicians to grope about in what the late Rev. John Neuhaus called our "naked public square," shorn and denuded of all religious values.
What values, exactly, do these Nativity Scenes convey and proclaim? Some will say, simply, that they are both a reminder and an endorsement of the Christian religion. But while this purely religious significance is undeniably true, it bears repeating that the manger scene and the figures of Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus -- together with the angel, the poor shepherds and their animals and, later, the three Kings bearing their magnificent gifts -- convey a host of other meanings, which have a secular significance and as well as a religious one. These manger scenes are celebrations of birth, new life, and renewal and hope bound up with succeeding generations. As well, they celebrate the beauty of the family, of mother, father and child. That the shepherds attended the event with their animals bespeaks the natural bonds that unite all men and women, within the larger human community, and together with all other living beings, our fellow creatures. Finally, the heralding angel adds the Divine, transcendent worth and dignity to this elemental human drama, and the arrival of the gift-bearing Kings signifies that rich and poor alike share equally in the joy that greets this newborn babe.
Finally, the American Nativity Scene effort is ALL ABOUT THE HONORING OF THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS- THE BIRTH OF CHRIST. It never is, nor can be, about countering another groups message, or picking a fight as others seem to want to do. Hopefully, let them win or lose on the field of respectful dialogue. Let each message stand on its own. The American Nativity Scene is all about Christ, and the love in the message of Christmas.
Let me, and the entire American Nativity Scene group, wish all a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year. See you all God willing with Christmas 2015.
Jim Finnegan Founder ANS
Ed O'Malley President ANS
Below are some pictures of Nativity Scenes that have been placed in this great country of ours.
San Diego at night