The Bill of Rights and Christmas
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by Laramie Boyd
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I was browsing through some old files the other day and I came across a well used
copy of our Bill of Rights. You know, that document that is supposed to guide the government in its relations with the citizens of
this great Country, America. I decided to give it a once- over- again reading, as I often do to meaningful articles of interest tucked
away in my desk drawer. So I began reading Amendment #1 that says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof......" I stopped there and thought for a moment at what I had been reading about during this
Christmas Holiday season, about how the right to publicly display a Nativity scene had been denied. And I asked myself whether or
not erecting a Nativity scene was an exercise of a religion or not, because there was not supposed to be any prohibition of such an
Now, I know that there are certain restrictions to the various freedoms we are
entitled to according to the Constitution. There is Freedom of Speech, except you can't yell "FIRE" in a crowded auditorium when there
is no fire. There's Freedom of the Press but it doesn't allow you to print slanderous and false accusations. And the right of the
people to keep and bear arms does not include atomic weapons. These exaggerated examples are easy to agree with. But the Nativity
scene, in my mind, is not an example of a right that should be excluded.
Isn't it true
that the Nativity scene, where a doll-like figure, or sometimes a real baby, represents Jesus Christ when he was a baby, recalling
the birth of Jesus? Isn't that what the scene calls to mind to Christians? Isn't His birth one of the foundations of the Christian
belief? And isn't Christianity a religion? So to deny the right to display such a scene seems to me to be a blatant example of "prohibiting
the free exercise thereof" of a religion.
One concern about a Nativity scene is whether
or not it should be set up on government property, whether it be federal, state or local, citing the "separation of church and state"
controversy. And by the way, isn't all "government property" the property of the people? The claim is made that setting up such a
scene on a lawn owned by a government agency implies that the government endorses, or recommends following the religion of the scene,
whether it be Christian, Jewish, or whatever given religion. Does anybody really believe that the local library wants the people who
come to view a Nativity scene on its lawn to convert to Christianity? Wouldn't a simple, posted disclaimer at the scene take care
of that issue in the minds of the public. And the attempt by atheists to set up a scene declaring that no God exists, when atheism
is not a religion and therefore not covered by the Bill of Rights, surely that speaks for itself as being ludicrous.
There are Bible verses all over federal buildings and monuments, including the United States Supreme Court courtroom. Every session
of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are opened with a prayer by the Chaplain of that body. Each of the Chaplains throughout
history has been a Christian. Yet representations of the reason there is a Christian religion, the Nativity scene, is under attack.
Seems to me it's just another reason one wonders about the priorities and policies and plain old common sense of our Supreme Court
and our elected representatives in Congress. It isn't brain surgery, or quantum physics, or rocket science. It's just a little tableau
to help people remember what Christmas is all about, no reason to make a federal case out of it, is there?