Nativity Scene - Letter of the Law

From, there's an article that briefly describes a legal debate about a nativity display on government property,

Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded the removal of the nativity scene from St. Bernard’s city hall, claiming that it violates the U.S. Constitution and is indicative of government sponsorship of religion.


This excludes citizens who are not Christian-- Jews, Muslims, Native American religious practitioners, etc-- as well as atheists and others who choose not to practice any religion,

Of course, the opposition disagrees,

Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel Matt Staver, however, maintains that the display is constitutional because it includes both secular and non-secular holiday symbols, the constitutionality of which has been upheld in previous nativity scene cases.

"Publicly-sponsored Nativity scenes on public property are constitutional, especially when the display includes other secular symbols of the holiday, as this one does. The St. Bernard Nativity scene is constitutional."

It's all smoke and mirrors. 

They're trying to use the letter of the law to defeat the spirit of the law. The goal here, which the FFRF correctly maintains, is to keep the government neutral on the matter of religion. That's the best case scenario for everyone. 

Instead, they've employed a technicality. Suppose I were to co-opt my local courthouse lawn with a setup that consists of the following,

  1. A sign that says, "Only ignorant fools believe in a god.."
  2. A barrel labeled "This is what a barrel may look like"
  3. Another sign that says, "Did you know that 2 + 2 = 4? Neat, eh?"

... and I disallow anyone else from placing their own displays. How have the additions of 2 and 3 somehow made my religious message invulnerable? Secularism isn't the Smoke Monster that can be kept at bay with a circle of ash (if you don't get the reference, don't fret it).

The "secular" displays aren't the problem - it's disallowing competing or dissenting viewpoints. #1 above isn't "secular". It's a religious message, even if it's opposed to theism/religion.

The intent of the nativity display is clear - to control the government property, use it to promote your religion, and suppress everyone else. There's two ways the local government can be in compliance with law:

  1. Allow anyone from any (non)religious stance to put up their own displays.
  2. Disallow all displays.