By Doug Carter

Author’s note: This article originally appeared on Western Journalism, but that site no longer exists.

Shaw Air Force Nativity Display- Image Courtesy of Google Commons

A nativity scene on Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina became yet another casualty in the war on Christmas in 2013.

The move follows a trend of systematically removing nativity displays from public property. Just ask residents in Santa Monica, Pittsburgh, Clarksville, Tennessee, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Charleston, South Carolina, and Green Bay, Wisconsin about the recent controversies surrounding their public nativity displays.

“I expect to see religious emblems at houses of worship, not in government buildings.” – Barry Lynn, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Apparently, the ACLU has never considered the painting called The Apotheosis of Washington adorning the ceiling of the U.S. Capitol rotunda.

Now it’s time for the tide to turn.

This Christmas, Christians will have a new, stronger argument in support of their traditional nativity displays. It’s time to stop the madness.

Let’s compare the Apotheosis of Washington to a nativity scene.

A Nativity and the Apotheosis of Washington are the antithesis of one another.

A nativity scene is simply a depiction of the moment in time God became man. An apotheosis is a depiction of the moment in time man becomes a god.

A nativity display is important to the Christian religion in the same way an apotheosis display is important to the Mystery religions. Both call upon the observer to contemplate a deeper religious message.

For contextual emphasis, the Apotheosis even has scenes depicting the gods and goddesses of the Mysteries. In one scene, Benjamin Franklin is included in the painting alongside the goddess Minerva of the Bacchic Mysteries.

This is the equivalent of a nativity scene depicting Washington and Franklin as characters in the Christmas story.

Where are the cries for Separation of Church and State? Where is the outrage over excessive entanglement between government and religion?

In 1989, the Pittsburgh nativity display on the steps of the Allegheny County courthouse was ruled unconstitutional because it was prominently displayed without secular symbols. Since that time, other municipalities have been forced to change their displays to include Santas, reindeer, candy canes, or snowmen.

Why are there no Santas, reindeer, candy canes, or snowmen surrounding the Apotheosis of Washington?

Lynn and the ACLU are faithful to outline which nativity displays are constitutional and which are not. The ACLU recently approved a nativity display inside the Florida state Capitol rotunda because the display was privately funded and not government sponsored.

Taxpayer Funding of the Apotheosis is o.k., but not a Nativity Display?

In 2008, the ACLU was instrumental in causing Clarksville, Tennessee to lose its live nativity display since the city paid two hundred dollars in animal rental fees. Yet Congress commissioned Constantino Brumidi to paint the Apotheosis of Washington in 1863 for a price of $40,000. Since that time, repairs to the Apotheosis have also been made at taxpayers’ expense.

Apotheosis of Washington, commissioned by Congress and painted atop the US Capitol rotunda

Because the Apotheosis is the very antithesis of a nativity scene, and since the Apotheosis appears in the same context in which nativity displays are banned, under current interpretation of law, the Apotheosis should also be ruled unconstitutional.

Either the Court should order the Apotheosis of Washington to be modified or removed, or else it should overturn precedent set by similar cases.  The simple solution seems to be to restore stand-alone nativity displays and keep the Apotheosis.

Until the Apotheosis problem is addressed, perhaps it’s time to stop the nonsense of censoring Christmas celebrations and return to the uninhibited joy of Christmas.


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