Christianity Under Attack Again this Christmas as Satanists Erect Forbidden Fruit and Serpent Displays on Capital Grounds and Atheists Force Local Officials to Remove Nativity Displays


Edward White


December 13, 2018

The war on Christmas is real – and it is raging on. The ACLJ is dedicated to defending religious liberty, and at no time is it more crucial than during this Christmas holiday season. At the ACLJ, we are contacted by localities and concerned citizens when Christmas and other holiday displays are attacked, and often we are able to assist in ensuring they are protected. But far too often, we see situations where a Nativity on public property – which is not in and of itself unconstitutional – is attacked, but the locality doesn’t fight back. Already this holiday season, a Pennsylvania town named after a significant city in the Bible has bowed to pressure from “offended” atheists and removed its annual nativity scene. Although it had been there for years without incident, this year, the city of Emmaus, PA has reportedly removed the nativity scene, not wishing to engage in a legal battle. After Americans United for Separation of Church and State dangled the threat of a lawsuit, the borough agreed reluctantly to end the tradition this year. The scene has since found a new home on Main Street outside the Emmaus Moravian Church. Not everyone was happy about it. Some argued that the display honored the borough’s distinctly Christian roots: Emmaus was founded by the Moravians and named after the biblical town where Jesus was seen by two of his disciples after his crucifixion and resurrection. “There were a couple of members of the council who felt strongly,” said borough manager Shane Pepe. “Their emotional response was, ‘Why should we bow down once again to an overly sensitive organization that is looking to sue people?’ But we’re not fighting a legal battle over this.” In shocking parallels, the states of Illinois and Michigan have both allowed Satanist groups to place displays representing the Church of Satan in their states’ Capitols alongside traditional Christian and Jewish holiday displays. As if meant to be an additional slap in the face of Christians, the Satanic Temple-Chicago has received government approval to display another well-known Biblical scene for its “holiday display” at the Illinois state Capitol. The statue is a hand holding an apple as a serpent slithers around its wrist. To be clear, Illinois chose to allow this. It was not constitutionally required to do so. ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow argued this issue at the Supreme Court, winning a 9-0 victory in Pleasant Grove v. Summum . The Supreme Court held that when a government chooses to speak – in that case, by allowing a Ten Commandments monument to be erected – it is not required to put up monuments for every other group that demands one. Yet that is what Illinois chose to do here. It’s absurd, and we’re preparing to send a legal letter outlining what the Constitution actually requires. And in nearby Michigan, Grand Rapids-based organization West Michigan Friends of the Satanic Temple also demanded – and have now been approved for – a Satanic “holiday display” to be placed at the Michigan Capitol building. Atheist groups have openly admitted this is their agenda – a campaign against Christian displays during the Christmas holiday season. One such anti-Christian group employs a full staff of attorneys dedicated to attacking Christianity during the Christmas season. For atheist and secular rights groups, the holiday season has become the busiest time of the year as they ring in the winter solstice by taking on public Christmas and Hanukkah displays seen as violating church-state separation. Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said her organization has handled hundreds, if not thousands, of such cases over its 40-year history. The foundation now has nine attorneys and two legal assistants on staff. “All we do in December is this kind of thing,” said Ms. Gaylor. “People will be driving past their city hall on Christmas Eve and send us an email with a picture because they’re offended. It goes on all through December and into January.” Last week, the city of Dover, Ohio, agreed to move its nativity scene and Ten Commandments display from public property to the grounds of a local church after the foundation threatened legal action. Ironically, there are only two religious displays that ever seem to be attacked: those of Jews and Christians. Last year, the ACLJ came to the aid of an elderly woman in Massachusetts when she was notified by her landlord that her Christmas decoration on her front door that included a Bible verse had to be removed as it was deemed “offensive.” After our legal intervention, the matter was quickly settled and she was allowed to proudly display her Christmas spirit, including the Bible verse, on her door and share the true reason for the season. Faith is part of our American heritage, and Christmas is the day that Christians celebrate the birth of our Savior. Attacks on traditional Christmas displays such as nativity scenes are nothing less than attacks on our religious liberty as Americans. The ACLJ works tirelessly to defend religious freedom in this great nation. We're currently preparing critical legal letters to deliver to Illinois and Michigan government officials on behalf of ACLJ members in those states who oppose these offensive displays that were created for the purpose of antagonizing Christians and Jews, explaining what the Constitution ACTUALLY requires. If your town is the target of one of these attacks, or if you face some kind of religious discrimination this Christmas season, we want to know about it. We want to have the opportunity to help if we are able. You can make a legal help request to the ACLJ here .