ACLU Again Not Challenging Springfield, Illinois Nativity Scene: Isn't That Special! It Is
Springfield Nativity Scene To Stand In Illinois State Capitol Rotunda Building For Second Year: ACLU Says It Supports Constitutional Rights To Express Religious Liberty In the Public Square
by Daniel T. Zanoza, Executive Director of RFFM.org and Chairman of the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee
For the second year a row, a Nativity Scene will stand in the state Capitol Rotunda Building in Springfield, Illinois. Last Christmas season, the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee (SNSC) made history with the financial and legal assistance of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society (TMS) and the support of private donations.
An article written by Kurt Erickson of the Bloomington Pantagraphhttp://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/article_6cb5244a-ad00-11de-be5d-001cc4c002e0.html revealed the Illinois American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had also applied for and was granted a permit which would allow the organization to put up their own display in 2009--which I understand will include a copy of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution--which will stand on a table. I don't know what the ACLU is celebrating and I am not privy to exactly what the ACLU exhibit will look like because they haven't consulted me regarding the issue. However, I think it is safe to say the ACLU's display will not be celebrating the Christmas season.
Last year, in a statement issued to the media, the Illinois ACLU acknowledged they recognized the Constitutionality of the Nativity Scene display. I'm sure this decision was made because someone within the organization--which many Americans would agree, at every opportunity, has opposed any expression of faith in the public square--has indeed read the First Amendment.
This is why, if, in fact, reports are accurate regarding the ACLU's planned display of the U.S. Constitution and the Establishment Clause therein, I welcome their exhibit and I hope everyone who visits the Nativity Scene will take a moment to read the document which was penned by our nation's Founding Fathers. Subsequently, I express my appreciation to the ACLU for its "support" of the Springfield Nativity Scene. Well, I'm sure the ACLU is not exactly writing out a check to financially assist the SNSC and the Nativity Scene display, but it is nice to know this far left-leaning organization understands the Constitution of the United States of America. Quite frankly, my first reaction when I heard the Illinois ACLU was going to display the First Amendment during this Christmas season, was, "I wonder if they ever read it?" Obviously, someone in the ACLU has, although the public would not know it by the organization's relentless attacks on the expression of religious liberty in the public square.
Here is one thing I am sure of. If the Springfield Nativity Scene--which will stand in a government building--were unconstitutional--the ACLU would definitely have filed a legal challenge to the display by now. Tom Brejcha, the President of the Chicago-based Thomas More Societyhttp://www.thomasmoresociety.org/ explains why the ACLU is no longer challenging such religious displays. "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. "As political speeches and rallies are commonplace at our State Capitol, free speech rights encompass religious speech on equal terms."
The precedent for the Springfield Nativity Scene was first set in a federal court ruling titled, "Grutzmacher vs. Chicago Public Building Commission" in 1989 which stated such displays were constitutional on government property as long as they are supported by private funds.
Many Americans wonder why the ACLU has been successful in their efforts to discourage individuals and groups who express their rights regarding expressions of faith in public venues. Quite frankly, the ACLU operates primarily through the use of intimidation. Most individuals or organizations do not have the funds or access to legal representation in order to fight off lawsuits filed by the ACLU or organizations with similar goals like "Americans United for Separation of Church and State." In fact, there are also good people and groups who do not understand what the Constitution says about the expression of religious liberty in the public square.
I recently attended a pro-family event and spoke with some wonderful people who erected a Nativity Scene display in a small town located in central Illinois. The lawyers for that town told the group, in order for them to put up a Nativity Scene on public property, they must also sponsor and pay for displays regarding other faiths. For example, they were inaccurately told they must also put up a Menorah celebrating Hanukkah; something related to the Islamic faith; and possibly a display representing those who have no faith at all. Again, this is an inaccurate interpretation of the rights we have as citizens of the United States. Indeed, to make it clear, I welcome the Menorah--which stood in the Illinois Capitol Building in 2008--and I hope the group responsible for that display again erects another in 2009. However, my point is there are city officials throughout the country who do not understand the rights which made the Springfield Nativity Scene possible.
Therefore, my thanks goes out to the ACLU for its unintentional support of the Springfield, Illinois Nativity Scene which will be officially celebrated in an event on December 1st, 2009 between 12 Noon and 1 P.M. The official "unveiling" will take place in the state Capitol Rotunda Building and all members of the public are invited and encouraged to attend.
I would also like to express my deepest appreciation for the fair and balanced coverage the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee received from the dominant media in central Illinois. I originally hail from the Chicagoland area and, upon moving to central Illinois, I quickly learned the press operates under the true tenets of honest journalism in this area. This is in stark contrast to how the dominant press operates in major cities across the United States, like Chicago.
This year a Nativity Scene will stand in the Daley Civic Center Plaza as well. The depiction of Christ's birth has stood in the heart of downtown Chicago since 1989 and is erected each year shortly after Thanksgiving Day. A virtual army of volunteers help out to erect the life-sized display.
As Americans, we have rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. However, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, these inalienable rights are given to all men from our Creator. This is what the Springfield Nativity Scene is really all about. But it has a secondary purpose as well. The Nativity Scene display is meant to inform the public that our religious liberty does not end at the door to a public building, at the door to a school house or anywhere in America. Therefore, again, I'd like to express my thanks to the ACLU. In a strange way, they validate such expressions of religious faith in the public square, though I know it is not their intent. In truth, the reported display of the First Amendment by the ACLU is not really meant to approve of the Springfield Nativity Scene and similar displays in any way. The radical organization's efforts are meant to generate funds from those Americans who oppose the rights granted to us all. Many such individuals or organizations would simply like to have groups like the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee go away. But we are not going away. And I hope others across the country will recognize our religious liberties are under attack and the rights we now cherish and celebrate may not exist forever. Unless we stand up against these forces, our rights to publicly express our faith could become a thing of the past.