Free Nativity Scenes Available for Public Display

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by Anita Carey  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 11, 2017   

CM exclusive interview with Thomas More Society

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CHICAGO, Ill. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Two non-profit organizations are wanting nativity scenes displayed in every state capitol in America.

The Thomas More Society and American Nativity Scene are teaming up to get free nativity scenes displayed in all 50 states. Thomas More Society lawyers are the legal counsel responsible for setting the precedent, allowing religious displays on public property. They are also defenders of pro-life hero David Daleiden, whose undercover investigations expose Planned Parenthood's alleged trafficking of aborted baby parts.

Church Militant spoke with Thomas Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, to find out how they were able to overcome the issue of separation of Church and State. "The key is to find a traditional or designated public free speech forum," Brejcha says. He further explains that this could be any space where a government allows any type of public rally. 

The other aspect of the request is that it has to be a private sponsorship with private funding. Recalling the 1987 Grutzmacher v. The Chicago Building Commission case that set the precedent, Brejcha says the "government is the gatekeeper to the public forum." No public funds can be used to purchase, set up or store the display and the government is considered neutral.

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Using this defense, they have had nativity scenes placed in 14 state capitols to date. Though the goal is to have one in all 50 states, this program can be used for any public space used as free speech zones. 
 
Church Militant asked Brejcha if this opens the door for satanists or atheist groups to also display messages. Brejcha agreed that it does and that it can provoke others to display satanic or atheistic messages.

He disagrees that having opposing messages is a reason to shy away from displaying religious messages, saying, "The First Amendment is meant to stir unrest and challenge thinking." He notes, "The contrast is positive," explaining that "the Christian faith has values that are attractive to people," whereas the message and images from satanists and atheists are "repulsive." The argument will be won by the natural beauty of the Truth. 

American Nativity Scene has generously offered to buy and ship statues of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus and an angel directly to the sponsors. He says the generous benefactor who does all this anonymously has already sent out between 70–80 sets. Sponsors of the sets will need to either buy or have a manger built.

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Thomas Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society

Brejcha says the Thomas More Society can help with writing letters to the local governments and go to court, if necessary. He says many times, denials of requests to display religious materials are overturned once the letter is sent.

Brejcha has often said, "The First Amendment protects religious speech, equally as political speech," adding, "If you can get up on your soapbox and plead for a candidate or point of view in a public forum, then equally you may get on the soapbox and proclaim the joyous, hopeful message of the Christ Child!"

Requests can be made through American Nativity Scene, here, anytime before Thanksgiving. Brejcha says it is better to request them sooner, optimally before the end of October, as time is needed to obtain the sets and ship them. Brejcha says the initiative could be done with just one person, but it can be helpful to have a committee of 3–6 people involved.

Brejcha told Church Militant that even if the display is only allowed for a day, sponsors should make a big deal about it, inviting choirs, prayer groups and others to come. It is a foothold for future displays that could last the entire Christmas season. Brejcha explains there are even secular significances to the display such as "family, birth, humility," adding that there are "a lot of values the nativity scene embodies."

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