“It’s equal treatment. It’s simply a matter of non-discrimination of political speech on one hand and religious speech on the other,” says Thomas Brejcha (pronounced Breck-ka) about having nativity scenes at state capitols and other government-owned public squares. He is the president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society.
“The hour is late, but I believe we can still ship them, and they’re provided for by a generous benefactor,” says Brejcha. Even if they have maxed out and shipped all of those made for 2018, people who apply will be first in line for next year’s batch.
However, if you apply now, the remaining ones which will be shipped for this year will not be the full-color hand-painted sets, but the white ivory versions. Adding the color requires more time than available right now. He asks people to apply because each year a benefactor pays to have the nativity scenes made and shipped to those who qualify.
Legal Concerns Solved
“People are afraid they’ll be caught up in litigation or into court,” says Brejcha, “but if that’s the case, we’re poised and ready to come to their aid and assistance.” The Thomas More Society is a pro-bono firm dealing with these types of issues.
“But I don’t expect it to be necessary,” Brejcha shares. At least two cases exist, one in Illinois and one in Texas, where the ACLU has said having the nativity scenes is free speech and is protected.
“Christians have a say in the matter of free speech as [much as] anybody else,” Brejcha adds.
From the website, “The Christmas nativity display is privately funded and sponsored, bereft of any government aid or endorsement, and therefore it is clothed and armored with the full protection of the First Amendment of the Constitution.”
“It is private speech, not government speech, on a religious as opposed to a political topic.”
“It’s not just free expression of religion, which is part of the First Amendment,” says Brejcha, “but the basic right of free speech. We’re allowed to get up and say what you want to say. If it’s the belief in the divinity of Jesus, the salvific message of the Christ child, then that speech is equally as welcome as if you are arguing for Democratic or Republican politics.”
“You are allowed to set up your soapbox and spout your politics in the public square. If political speeches are routinely stated there, then you have the equal right to set up a nativity scene,” says Brejcha, “or share the gospel.”
Applications and Possible Obstacles
For those interested, read details or apply at https://americannativityscene.com/how-to-order.html. Should anyone run into what they believe is an illegitimate block or obstacle to getting permits, then please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the nativity scene is made and shipped without charge, storage during the year until the next season, along with making the manger rests upon the group or individuals. The manger is not included, but plans can be found when you apply at the American Nativity Scene website. Brejcha says most people find it relatively easy to find someone within their church to help build it.
“Too many people, including Christians, believe that somehow there is a separation of state that is an absolute bar to any expression of religious values in the public square. And that’s completely wrong,” says Brejcha.
The Thomas More Society first litigated a case about this in 1988 about a nativity scene in the Daily Plaza of Chicago. With an average of around 20 states with nativity scenes inside capitols, plus more in other public squares and places, they have been faithful in their fight to keep the Christian faith in full sight of a nation in need of our Savior Jesus Christ.
“Let’s rejoice and be glad in the birth of the Christ child,” Brejcha says. “We do it unapologetically, joyfully, and let’s keep it going.”
Editor's Note: The photo is the nativity scene which has been on display for several years during Christmas in Springfield, Illinois. Again, if you manage to get a scene this year, you will receive the ivory white version as the hand painting takes additional time. Please apply here.