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”

  1. Fiona says:

    More pirates!


  2. Victor Mendoza says:

    I’ll say it, i’m an asshole. The nativity scene does bother me a bit, because it is outright religious. The one that pisses me off every year though, is the christmas tree. Here in reno, every year the city erects a christmas tree in front of city hall, and every year someone comes in and protests it. As far as i am concerned, christmas trees are secular, as there is nothing about pine trees in any bible ive ever read, and definitely nothing about tiny LED lights wrapped around trees.

    • Keith says:

      If someone set alight to it (and I hope they don’t) it would be a burning bush.

  3. Theo says:

    The solution shouldn’t be that they aren’t allowed to, the solution is to do the same as they do.
    FSM thing next to it and we’re done.

    • theFewtheProudtheMarinara says:

      And if public funds were used on the creche, then public funds go towards the FSM mountain & midgit (traditional spellilng).

  4. Louis says:

    Yeah, let’s just stop fighting the separation of church and state. The right wing wack jobs aren’t going to quit putting up kreshes, so let’s just all calm down and let government implicitly endorse christianity. Let’s back off of fighting prayers in school, also. It’s just a prayer, after all. What difference could that make? Let’s put the 10 commandments in schools, too. They are good principals to live by, so why not put them in the classrooms. And we are wasting time on fighting chruches endorsing political candidates for public office. Why shouldn’t religious organizations just be able to give money to political candidates too? Why not teach creationism in schools also? After all, evolution is only a thoery too.

    What about this concept instead? Let people put up whatever ever religious symbol or display that they want on their own private land and don’t have government spending my money on religious displays that tacitly endorse a relligion. If a manger scene is not a religious symbol for christianity, then what is it? A fariy tale? A fable? Isn’t he supposed to be the son of God and the basis for the Christian religion?

    Just remember that secularists are not putting up the nativity scenes, people or governments are and it is a blatent violation of the doctrine of separation of church and state. We are not causing this problem, just fighting for the constitutional principles that this country was founded on. If you want more information on this issue, just go to http://www.au.org and read some more.

    • bigjohn756 says:

      Thanks, Louis, you just saved me a lot of typing.

      • Christopher says:


    • Brian Fritzen says:


      I get what you are saying. And I do feel the same. I really do. But I also understand Bobby too because of the public face it places on Atheists. I could definitely agree about the nativity being an endorsement of religion. But what about the tree lighting. I think that in many communities it is a community wide experience that can foster relationships with kith and kin. There are memories being created with parents and their offspring that have nothing to do with Christianity. I think Christmas brings about much in the way of charity and goodwill.

      Railing against this doesn’t really do Atheists justice. Including other faiths and non faiths certainly wouldn’t be asking to much. I think it is just a more positive way of arguing that church and state must be separated. I think that it also helps promote the diverse culture of the USA without it being negative. We are at a crossroads in the USA. We have the rise of a religious right that frighteningly mirrors the rise of the Nazi party in Germany.

      If you think I am nuts, check out the last Nobel Prize winner before this year who was not present at the ceremony. Now compare what that man did in Nazi crazed Germany to the Wikileaks founder. Look at how the USA has made “Muslim” into a “race” like how Hitler made “Jew” into a “race.”

      I guess I am in conflict with myself. On one hand, I like to follow the Daoist and Bhuddist philosophies that leaders should follow by example and by serving the greater good. On the other hand, I want to rail against this tyranny. I want to rise against this right winged power mad, war mongering regime. I want to take it down and restart it with a much smaller emphasis on military and a greater emphasis on education.

      Does this one little battle help in the fight against the established religions? Or would a focus on reason in education be a better way toward a more secular society: allowing citizens to chose for themselves once they are given the tools to decide wisely. How to proceed? How can we move toward the society envisioned by the founding fathers? By Jefferson and Washington and Adams? By these deists and atheists? By these people who knew the very real danger of standing armies and religious doctrine in politics?

      I think a coordinated agenda, a coordinated “attack” so to speak would produce better results than a few small victories. There already is precedent for removal of religious exhibits from public property, but the problem we run into then is how do publicly funded libraries and museums deal with it? Shouldn’t the libraries be able to purchase all religious texts in order to make them available for both secular and religious reasons? Shouldn’t museums be able to display artifacts relating to religion?

      I would like us to spend more energy on educating the populace about the inherent dangers of religion in politics using quotes by the founding fathers (gives us credibility and no one who claims patriotism can argue with those men and not appear to be a fool.)


    • UUniversal Love says:

      This is a potential threat to the separation of church and state, not an immediate one. If it is exclusionary to anyone, then it is unconstitutional. I currently reside in Tulsa, Oklahoma; been some press there about a senator boycotting the renamed “Holiday” parade, like there’s no reason to celebrate if you’re not Christian. But I personally think the state should encourage the celebration of all religious beliefs, including areligious ones.

      I would feel much more… American, I think, if I saw a Christmas nativity scene next to a giant menorah next to an FSM creation scene than if I saw nothing around the American flag this season. If secularists and religious liberals want to improve the conversation on religious freedom we shouldn’t tell other people to hide their beliefs. We should be proud of our own.

  5. Charlie says:

    FFRF’s point (Full disclosure – I’m a member) is that this blatently religious display is on courthouse grounds, thus government sponsorship. A nativity scene is a religious display, no mistake about it. Religion has no place in government. It’s interesting that those who espouse less government want more religion in it.

  6. Yukari Yakumo says:

    Or maybe you should move to England. Here Christians are so laid back that atheists feel no need to be pissed off over nativity scenes. And I agree that this makes atheists and secularists look like complete dicks, but it doesn’t seem like they have an easy ride in the US, so I can understand why they’re frustrated.

    • Duke Airanda Tension says:

      Hi Yukari,
      Unfortunately things aren’t quite so hunky dory as you believe over here in merry old England. The hypocrite Blair (the man who hid his religion to maintain power) started off the foundation schools project where anyone who provides 10% of the cost of a school can dictate how the school is run, the government (taxpayer) providing 90% and having little say. My son is attending an Emmanuel School where a second hand car salesman has introduced creationism (ID) as he has swallowed the bible as the literal representation of history. Luckily his sister and I have introduced him to the true faith of FSMism and he has taken the gospel as his study book for this year. we are awaiting the school’s reaction. I stand on the sidelines and cheer on all you over in the USA fighting for the constitution and the separation of state and church. I just wish we had the same over here. we still get the xians complaining about the secularisation of xmas into winterval, despite this being a one off promotion by Birmingham City Council to promote their mid-winter markets.

  7. Mark Borok says:

    The nativity scene should be sponsored by a church group or other non-government entity. They should be just as free to display it on the courthouse lawn (which is public property) as any other group, as for instance Jews with a menorah on Hannukah. Just as people are free to express their religious views on public roads and in public parks, they should be free to express them on the public courthouse lawn, provided it is clear that this is privately funded and sponsored.

  8. Mr. A says:

    I’d like to second, or third, or twenty-fifth or whatever, many of the opinions expressed above that these kinds of battles are much more effectively framed in positive, rather than negative, terms: bring the fight to the courthouse by placing a menorah or something else there, and let them try to take it down. Then, at best, the courthouse officials will look like tolerant Americans, supportive of any and all faiths, and at worst, be exposed as Christian-centric bigots (which is probably what they are). In any case, the potential bad PR will fall on those responsible for the Nativity scene, not on the FFRF, and I think it’s important to remember how much of these struggles are more about PR than they are about the actual ideas (a point that I think Bobby was making as well).

    Another example: I’m an Indiana resident myself, and was recently in a small-town court to contest a traffic ticket. Needless to say, the Ten Commandments were prominently displayed on the courtroom wall, and the clerk, prosecutor, and judge were gossiping between cases about who they had seen and not seen at church the previous weekend. I probably could have raised a huge fuss over this, but it seemed like it would have been a Pyrrhic victory at best, putting a negative face on atheists and good Pastafarians everywhere, and all for a traffic ticket…what I think would be better (which I guess I can still do, now that the whole affair is over) is insist that they also display some excerpts from the Gospel of the FSM. Again, let them be the ones to turn it down and expose them for the bigots they are.

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