Christmas is Over, But Public Display Battles Rage On

The Wild Hunt is 100% reader supported by readers like you. Your support helps us pay our writers and editors, as well as cover the other bills to keep the news coming to you ad free. If you can, use the button below to make a one-time donation - or become a monthly sustainer. Thank you for reading The Wild Hunt!

Usually the “Christmas Wars” die down quickly once the calendar hits December 26th, but this time around religious minorities (and various Church-State organizations) aren’t going gently into that good night. In Green Bay, where a controversial Nativity display was at first announced to be interfaith, but then restricted to a solely Christian display, a lawsuit has been filed.

“The Nativity scene at Green Bay City Hall will come down today, but the controversy it created won’t go away anytime soon. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group that advocates for the separation of church and state, and 12 Green Bay residents moved to file a lawsuit Monday challenging the display on the roof of a City Hall entrance. The lawsuit claims the display depicting the birth of Jesus is an unconstitutional governmental endorsement of religion. It claims City Council President Chad Fradette and Mayor Jim Schmitt allowed the display to provoke and marginalize those who would object.”

The charge of provocation is easily proven, since Fradette went on record as saying the Nativity display was meant to start a fight.

“I’m trying to take this fight to the people who need to be fought. I’ll keep going on this until this group imposing Madison values crawls back into its hole and never crawls out.”

Also damning to Green Bay’s City Council is the revocation of an interfaith display (while leaving the Nativity up), including the refusal to restore a vandalized wreath donated by Wisconsin Wiccan organization Circle Sanctuary. Mayor Jim Schmitt later claimed he had no idea Wicca meant Witchcraft and that such a display wouldn’t be appropriate near a Nativity. The situation has become so heated that some are suggesting drastic measures.

“Only Christians should be obliged to pay taxes in Green Bay as the ignorant bigots running that city appear to represent them and only them. Perhaps non-Christians in Green Bay should go on a taxpayers strike!”

But instead of a taxpayers strike, perhaps groups in Green Bay might want to pay attention to what is happening in Ohio, where a similar set of circumstances have transpired.

“Zoroastrians and pagans, both claiming roles for their faiths in the Christmas tradition, won’t stop fighting to have their nontraditional holiday displays placed alongside nativity scenes in Ohio state parks. Efforts by both have so far been rejected by the administration of Gov. Ted Strickland, an ordained Methodist minister, who recently ordered Christian creches placed back in two state parks that had disallowed them due to religious concerns.”

But instead of localizing the battle to the Winter festivals, a local resident is preparing to take the fight over public displays of religion into the Spring.

“Tammy Miller was thwarted in her attempt this year to have the parks also display the “happy humanist” of the Humanists, whose philosophy favors human rationality and morality over belief in a higher power. She said she is now preparing a Wiccan pentagram, with help from Tarot card artist Robin Wood, that she wants to see displayed on the next pagan holiday, Imbolc, in February.”

Now that is some creative thinking! If these State and City governments want to “put Christ back into Christmas” so badly, let them, so long as they will allow us to put the Samhain back into Halloween. Flood representatives who insist on their “legal” Nativity displays to respect our need to see Pagan religions properly honored (legally of course) on the same property. Their refusals will only weaken whatever case they had for erecting Christian displays in December.

Legal pressures can be married with social pressures until these officials realize they don’t preside over a “Christian nation”. They are supposed to represent every religious manifestation (not to mention those who choose to not have a religious manifestation), not privilege a majority faith in order to score political points. Public displays must be open to all (Nativity + Menorah doesn’t equal diversity), or they shouldn’t happen at all. No doubt 2008 is going to be spent arguing this very question.