Doug Carter

It’s only November, and the annual Christmas controversy is already heating up.  On November 12, Federal Judge Timothy Brooks ruled that Baxter County, Arkansas violated the Constitution last year when it erected a Christian nativity display on its courthouse lawn.

The case was brought before Judge Brooks following a complaint by a local resident and the American Humanist Association (AHA).  Claiming a victory for separation of church and state, an AHA press release hailed the Court’s decision as an end to “a fifteen-year practice of unconstitutionally promoting and endorsing Christianity through its display of a nativity scene on the county courthouse lawn in Mountain Home, Arkansas.”

It’s only November, and the annual Christmas controversy is already heating up.  On November 12, Federal Judge Timothy Brooks ruled that Baxter County, Arkansas violated the Constitution last year when it erected a Christian nativity display on its courthouse lawn.

The case was brought before Judge Brooks following a complaint by a local resident and the American Humanist Association (AHA).  Claiming a victory for separation of church and state, an AHA press release hailed the Court’s decision as an end to “a fifteen-year practice of unconstitutionally promoting and endorsing Christianity through its display of a nativity scene on the county courthouse lawn in Mountain Home, Arkansas.”

However, the Court erred in its ruling and should overturn its decision.  Here are four reasons why:

First, an interesting twist in the Christmas controversy lies in the fact that adorning the rotunda ceiling inside the U.S. Capitol building is a painting called the “Apotheosis of Washington.”

Contrary to a nativity scene, which depicts the moment God becomes a man, the “Apotheosis” depicts the moment a man, George Washington, becomes a god.  If the commemoration of God becoming a man violates the Constitution, then it stands to reason that a commemoration of a man becoming a god would also violate the Constitution.  After all, these two events are the antithesis of one another.

Second, nativity displays on courthouse lawns are appropriate reminders that the rights guaranteed in our Constitution come from our Creator.   The Constitution was built upon the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence, in which the signers affirm the general presupposition that it is a “self-evident truth” that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights . . .”

If there is no Creator, as Humanists claim, then our rights must come from mankind, and are therefore changeable and can be taken away.  A nativity display honors the Creator and giver of our rights, while an apotheosis display replaces God with mankind and ultimately sends the message that there is no such thing as God-given unalienable rights.

Moreover, if it is true that “nativity displays are only appropriate for private property,” as Roy Speckhardt of the AHA claimed in that AHA press release, then it would also follow that apotheosis displays are also only appropriate for private property.  Yet in 1863, our own government commissioned Constantino Brumidi to paint the Apotheosis for $40,000.  Therefore, either Congress violated the Constitution, or Judge Brooks is wrong.

Third, just as Humanists may argue that a nativity scene on government property promotes and endorses Christianity, Christians may argue that an apotheosis display endorses Humanism, which rejects the supernatural and makes man his own god.

With each removal of Christian nativity displays, the State sends the message that the government is favoring the anti-Christian Humanist message above the Christian message.  Until recently, nativity displays have been allowed to co-exist in similar context with the “Apotheosis” without the State endorsing either over the other.

Unless the “Apotheosis of Washington” is either removed from the U.S. Capitol building or court decisions barring nativity displays on government property are overturned, the State appears to be discriminating against Christians, making them second-class citizens to the rest of the nation.

Before any more nativity scenes are removed, we the people must demand that our Court take a look at the Constitutionality of the “Apotheosis of Washington.”

November 20, 2015

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