SPRINGFIELD, IL -- On Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008, a privately-supported Nativity Scene will go on display in the state Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois. Solely funded and constructed as a result of donations from private citizens, the display depicting the birth of Jesus Christ will stand in the East Hall of the Capitol Building from December 2nd through the 28th.
The Nativity Scene and events surrounding the exhibit are being organized by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee (SNSC). The scene--designed and constructed by Chicago-based builder Karl Fritz and his son master craftsman Timothy Fritz--will feature the baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary within a manger.
The Nativity Scene can be viewed by the public during normal business hours each day. Also, choirs will be performing near the display throughout the Christmas season, including a performance by the Joyful Senior Singers & Ringers from the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur on December 9th.
The unveiling ceremony will begin promptly at 12 noon on December 2nd, opening with the singing of Christmas carols by the combined choirs of St. Alexander’s Catholic Church of Villa Park. At approximately 12:30, a prayer will be offered by Pastor Dustin Fulton from the Jefferson St. Christian Church of Lincoln. A few short speeches will follow, including words from Tom Brejcha, the president of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society and legal counsel for the SNSC.
“The Nativity Scene is primarily meant to honor the birth of Jesus Christ,” said Dan Zanoza of Lincoln and Chairman of the SNSC. “We are also hoping to demonstrate that such expressions of religious faith in the public square are legal under both the U.S. and Illinois State Constitutions. I believe many leaders of towns and municipalities have been intimidated by those who oppose such religious displays in public venues. I have been asked by many if putting a Nativity Scene in the Illinois state Capitol Building is lawful. The manger scene will answer that question and change the way the public thinks about the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
The SNSC will also offer its assistance and legal counsel to any Illinois citizens who may wish to put up a Nativity Scene in a public forum in their own communities.
“The right of private citizens to proclaim their religious faith and faith-based values in the public square was upheld in 1989 when Chief Judge James B. Parsons of the federal district court in Chicago held there could be no discrimination against religious expression on Daley Plaza in Chicago where, ever since, a Nativity Scene has been displayed annually,” said Brejcha. “We are honored to provide legal counsel in support of this project which is long overdue.”
The SNSC received permission for the Nativity Scene from the Secretary of State’s office and no records could be found indicating any manger scene appeared in the Capitol in the past.
Tax-deductible donations toward this project should be made payable by check or money order to: THOMAS MORE SOCIETY. Write “Nativity Scene” on the memo line and mail to: Thomas More Society, 29 S. LaSalle Street, Suite 440, Chicago, IL 60603.
Committee members: Tom Brejcha, Eunice Conn, Karl Fritz, Pastor Dustin Fulton, Dan Gura, state Sen. Chris Lauzen (acting as a private citizen), Arlene Sawicki, Julie Zanoza, Daniel Zanoza (Chairman).
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