If people were peaches, atheists would be the most fragile in the basket. Author Bob Knight made this observation in a piece on Townhall.com (12/1/11) he titled, “Tis the Season for Christmas Phobia.” Mr. Knight, a keen observer of oversensitivities to all things Christian, writes that atheists are “always getting bruised by the slightest exposure to public displays that remind them of Christmas, God, the Ten Commandments, or worst of all, Jesus.”
Take the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. From its perch in Madison, it casts its binoculars across the nation looking for anything that looks like government sponsorship of religion. In reality, if anything Christian touches anything government--and we’re talking federal, state, even local--the lawyers at the Freedom From Religion foundation will try to pry them apart. If government officials don’t meet their demands, they’ll sue. In an era of tight budgets, it can be easier just to back down.
Tony Court, the mayor of Ellwood City, Pennsylvania was a guest on our radio program. He heard from the Freedom From Religion Foundation about a nativity scene that has been displayed in his town for the past fifty Christmas seasons. Not this year, said a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The letter insisted the nativity scene is illegal and must be taken down. Now the group says the city can display the Nativity if it agrees to hang an anti-Christmas banner that says:
“At this season of the winter solstice, may reason prevail. There are no Gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”
Ok-kay. Well, actually it’s not okay. Mayor Court says: “No way. Not on his watch.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is also bothered by a nativity scene on the southeast corner of the Henderson County Courthouse in Athens, Texas.
County Judge Richard Sanders is arguing to keep the display. He says it’s one of several decorations placed around the courthouse each year. But since it stands alone on a corner, FFRF’s co-founder Laurie Anne Gaylor says it’s an unlawful endorsement of religion. The letter from the from the Freedom From Religion Foundation states: “There are ample private and church grounds where religious displays may be freely placed.”
That’s just the problem. Freedom of religion is not just freedom to practice your faith at church. Believing saint, our religion encompasses the way we live our lives, at work--and yes--when we interface with government. Because someone is offended or believes differently does not mean we don’t have a say. In Athens Texas most people love the nativity scene and appreciate it’s being displayed. FFRF found one anonymous person to complain
In the public square, there’s what Bob Knight calls “the growing fear Not to Offend.” But not in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania or Athens, Texas. This courage is refreshing.