Nativity or Nothing

It's that time of year again. The air is cold, the carols are incessant, the lights displays are extravagant, and anything that isn't specifically Jesus-oriented is going to be decried by the ever-persecuted Religious Wrong as part of the "War on Christmas". Stores that use "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" go on the Naughty List for daring to acknowledge the existence of more than one winter holiday. Towns that have Holiday Parades or Holiday Trees (the shite at that last link deserves a post of its own, frankly) face protests from the vocal minority that demands that THEIR holiday be THE ONLY holiday. And the battles rev up again over where one can place nativity scenes visible to the public.

On the surface, that would seem to be a simple enough issue. Private property is fine, so long as it doesn't violate local size-of-display laws. Public or government-owned property can go one of two ways. The easier way is to not allow religious holiday displays of any kind, so as not to favor any one religion over another in violation of the Establishment Clause. However, if a town wants to display a creche on public land, they can, so long as they also allow displays from other religions so as not to show favoritism. It's an all-or-nothing situation. And honestly, I can respect either choice.

Except in a situation like this one. The city of Chambersburg, PA, recently changed their policy to restrict all holiday displays. Fine, right? Except they only did so when, after 14 years of happily displaying a nativity on their memorial square, a local atheists group asked permission to put up a sign of their own about celebrating Solstice. Immediately the Borough Council unanimously voted to remove and ban all signs from the square in question. So the city in essence admitted, through their abrupt policy change spurred by the terrifying specter of enforced non/religious plurality, that the previous "inclusive" policy was really only intended to allow for Christian displays.

Council member Elaine Swartz argued before the vote that her concern, shared by her fellow members, lay more in the anticipation that groups of all viewpoints would suddenly bombard the square with their own signs and messages if council were to allow an atheist sign.

Oh noes! Quelle horreur! Groups of all viewpoints might want to put up signs if you let the atheists do it! Give a mouse a cookie and Christianity will no longer dominate the landscape, and we can't have that.

The atheist group in question intends to pursue legal action against Chambersburg for their sudden and discriminatory change of policy. I wish them luck. And a great big fuck-you to Christian hegemony as personified in incidents like this; the faster it falls the happier I'll be.

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