January 6

Another View: Founding fathers would not condone government-hosted Nativity scenes

What a columnist called calls a ‘war on Christmas’ is really an American holiday tradition.

By Meredith N. Springer

In his Dec. 27 op-ed column, Jay Ambrose regards objections to Nativity displays on public property as a war on Christmas, characterized by “super-sensitized politically correct … fanaticism.”

about the author

Meredith N. Springer is a resident of Scarborough.

Nativity scenes depict a central belief of Christianity. Such displays on government property imply a national religious identity excluding the many Americans who are not Christian. From its founding, this country has been distinguished by its lack of official religious beliefs, and our Founding Fathers strongly resisted efforts to make it otherwise.

But we have strident efforts to seek government assertion of official religious beliefs. Adoption of laws inserting “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance, adopting as the national motto “In God we trust,” and requiring it to be on all currency are manifestations of this effort, as is a recent House of Representatives resolution urging that this motto be widely displayed on public buildings.

President Thomas Jefferson refused to issue a Thanksgiving proclamation, saying: “I consider the Government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution of the United States from meddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.” Proclaiming a day of fasting and prayer, he said, “should indirectly assume to the United States an authority over religious exercises, which the Constitution has directly precluded.”

A Nativity scene on government property certainly goes much further than a Thanksgiving proclamation. Our founders gave much thought to these issues. We should heed what they said.

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