Nativity showdown

Published December 12th, 2010 by Bobby Henderson


There’s some drama over a Christian Nativity scene displayed on the lawn of a county courthouse in Indiana.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded the removal of the display on first amendment violation concerns and now locals are fighting.  It’s the same fight every Christmas and I get tired of writing about it.  

Now for the shock:

These Christmas fights bug me, honestly.   I am a supporter of the FFRF and of some of these secular and atheist organizations, but sometimes I am shaking my head and wondering what they are thinking.  You might get this scene removed but you do so much damage to our cause in the process.  You don’t think these perceptions matter?  Then what is this all about?  These Christmas fights make us look like such assholes, that’s all I’m saying. They are not reciting prayers in a state building or anything on that level.  A Nativity scene is barely religious, it’s like a cross necklace.   End of rant.

What do you guys think?

172 Responses to “Nativity showdown”

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  1. Tate says:

    Yeah, it’s getting a little old, and I don’t particularly care abut them anyways. I mean, I’d prefer they weren’t there, but I don’t think it’s worth putting up a huge fight over.

  2. Bosn_C_Otter says:

    I only have one point. does the city plan on having a scene set up of Mohammad ascending to heaven? How would the town react?

    Christians are very good about screaming for there religious freedom… as long as its their religion.

    Ether we all drink from the same fountain or we dont.

    • Lola says:

      I couldn’t agree more! But I think there’s a way to go about objecting to these things. Protests, name-calling and screaming at the top of their lungs, although satisfying, really do make the objectors look horrible, especially these days, what used to be religious symbols seem to have less religious meaning and more secular meaning. Whether the stuff is really that religious or not, it doesn’t belong on government property. I say go with Plan B. Quietly file a petition, go to court and take the high road, or at least save the mud slinging for court. Or go all-out with Plan A and add in mud wrestling and stadium seats with the nativity scene as the backdrop. At least it will be fun.

  3. Techskeptic says:

    I think the first step the FFRF should do is to have someone put up an FSM scene (or mohammed, or zeus) next to the nativity scene. That should be step #1. If that gets rejected, then step #2 should be to try to remove all religious paraphenalia. They have it backwards right now.

    Idea: what would be a good solstice FSM scene? One that could be put everywhere there is a nativity scene. Lets start that. Then the FFRF could be used to instead help us fight to keep that up instead of automatically going with the “takedown” route.

    • Bobby Henderson says:

      I agree 100% — the takedown demand was what got me. I’ve seen some spectacular secular displays. And FSM displays for that matter..

      • edd says:

        I think this FSM display has too many wise men and not enough strippers.

      • piratesmee says:

        I agree with Bobby: We need to do what is effective to see that reason prevails rather than emotion.

      • tekhedd says:

        I suppose it depends on your goals. Is an FSM display in front of every courthouse what you really want?

        The FFRF generally starts with a quite reasonable letter–litigation is rarely the first step because it is expensive and impolite. But in some situations (like where the town has clearly made their “we will not be moved” position clear) this is a waste of time.

        There’s a War on Solstice right now–and the danger is great. What if one year nobody performs proper pagan Solstice rituals and the sun dies for good? We’ll be plunged into an eternity of darkness, that’s what will happen! And these little “Christmas” displays are part of the pagan plan to push Sol aside completely.

        • tekhedd says:

          sorry, I meant to say, part of the *anti-pagan* plan. I need to hire a proofreader!

    • ADoS says:

      For an easy-to-make FSM scene, how about the Creation? Big pile of dirt for a mountain (possibly on a tarp for easy removal), little evergreen branches stuck in for trees, a pirate action figure for the midgit, topped off with an FSM made from rope, some sort of cheap red balls, and, depending on the size of the FSM, either golf balls, baseballs, softballs, or whatever for the eyes. Extend a piece of rope from the FSM to the pirate, and you’ve got a lovely FSM Creation Myth display.

  4. Stephan Ahonen says:

    I’m perfectly happy with anyone being allowed to publicly express their religious beliefs any way they want, as long as I’m free to express my religious beliefs in the same venue.

    We shouldn’t be trying to get rid of the nativity scene, we should be trying to set up a Flying Spaghetti Monster scene right next to it… In much the same way that I’m perfectly fine with intelligent design being taught in schools as long as FSM’s unintelligent design is taught right next to it.

    • Stephan Ahonen says:

      Incidentally, I started writing this before I saw either of the two posts above me. I’m glad we’re in agreement.

    • Ubi Dubium says:

      I’m right with Stephan on this. We shouldn’t demand removal, we just demand equal treatment. Statues of His Noodliness next to every nativity scene on public property! Either the xians have to put up with us, or they have to be the ones asking for all the displays to be removed. That’s the whole strategy here, beating them at their own game. Push back against their silly demands with our much awesomer silly demands until they get fed up.

  5. Roderick, Rutgers Pastafarians Purser says:

    Another interesting point is that I find university crews ad others are able to develop connections with other religious organizations: Jewish, Pagan, et cetera. If proposal from all of us are submitted together, we can do an interesting spin of making a town reject this group proposal from everyone except the christians. Thus, they’d be showing discrimination.

  6. Bobby Henderson says:

    I agree with everyone that it should be equal treatment for all. I just think it’s bad strategy on FFRF’s part to pick lousy battles that make secularists look like pedantic bullies. I’m not saying they won’t win, I’m saying that in winning, they’re losing turning away people. This was framed so badly, FFRF comes out the bad guy no matter what, win or lose.

    • Glenn says:


      Not fisticuffs… wrap an arm around their shoulder and force them to fight us off.

  7. Brian Fritzen says:

    I don’t know, Bobby. You are right in the respect that it is traditional. It has already been paid for (the scene) and can easily be erected by volunteers, thus preventing the use of tax dollars on religious display. Open it up for all. I don’t think that many people argue that. Many Courthouses already do!

    But I don’t think public funds should go towards anything new.

    Anyway, I think it is high time we really pushed what is most important about this holiday: that it is about giving. It has roots in Saturnalia, as many of us know, and Mythras (Mithras?) was born on December 25th. We know that, if this Jesus Christ guy was born at all, it would have been in the spring, when the flocks were in the field.

    Sooo, I celebrate this season because it means I am with family and friends, and I love giving. I think that should be what is most appropriate. I think it is the one thing the Christians really get right. Look at all of the charitable donations that come about at this time of year. Anyway, my two cents.

    I think we should take a stand on far more offensive stuff, like sticking their religion INSIDE my courtroom or science class, etc….

    • Amy says:

      I think your last sentence is spot on. So there’s a nativity on public land – so what? I would have more of a problem with it if another group – Pastafarians, Muslims, Jews – were denied their own scene, but demanding one be taken down makes FFRF and those of us who agree with their general principles just petty.

      But teaching religious beliefs as science? Or prattling on about how the US is a “Christian nation” and wanting to change the Constitution to reflect this ignorance? That’s where the fight should be.


      • tekhedd says:

        So you’re saying that Pastafarians, Muslims, and Jews are all allowed a turn to put their display around the US flag in front of the courthouse, and leave it up for 1/12 of the year? Because somehow I doubt that.

        You did notice that the US flag is the centerpiece of the nativity display, right?

  8. Keith says:

    The only problem I’d have with nativity scene being shown in public is that many kids will be asking where Father Christmas is. Get rid of it if you don’t want to confuse the little ones.

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