Another Casualty in the War on Christmas (2013)

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.


Indiana County Nativity Display Ignores Bullies

By Doug Carter

This article can be found on

This stand-alone nativity display on the Jackson County Courthouse lawn in Brownstown, Indiana recently came under attack by Freedom From Religion Foundation.

When humanist bullies demanded the removal of a traditional Christmas nativity display from their courthouse lawn, the citizens of Jackson County, Indiana ignored them and refused to back down.  Riding an avalanche of support, the display was still there when I visited the courthouse in Brownstown on December 28.

Remember Burgermeister Meisterburger from the 1970 children’s classic film, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town?  Burgermeister Meisterburger was the ruthless mayor of a German town who declared toys to be illegal, immoral, and unlawful, and decreed anyone caught in possession of toys to be thrown into the dungeon.

The real-life Burgermeister Meisterburger bullies of Christmas are back.  But instead of searching for toys, these somber Christmas villains search for any nativity display on public property.  Wherever stand-alone displays are found, the Burgermeisters request the display be removed.  If that doesn’t work, the threat of a civil lawsuit typically follows.

When Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) got wind of a lighted nativity display on the Jackson County Courthouse lawn, they sprang into action.  In Burgermeister-like fashion, FFRF complained that the county’s Christmas display violated the Constitution and requested that it be removed immediately.

While their bullying tactics often work, it appears FFRF picked on the wrong community this time.

As I made my way around Main Street across from the courthouse, I asked the locals to tell me their opinion on the nativity display.  They each began, “Some out-of-town group wrote a letter . . .”

At Brownstown Hardware store, a high school student told me the Jackson County nativity display has been there all his life.  Two ladies in Blondie’s Pizzeria and another inside the courthouse each confirmed it has been there a really-long time.  All four people expressed their disdain that an out-of-town group from Wisconsin is interfering with the county’s long-standing tradition.  None of them wanted it gone.

So why is FFRF harrassing them?

“A manger scene depicts the legendary birth of Jesus Christ, signaling the government’s approval of Christianity,” which, suggests FFRF, violates the First Amendment.

According to a letter sent to Jackson County commissioners, FFRF believes “It is unlawful for the County to maintain, erect, or host a holiday display that consists solely of a nativity scene, thus singling out, showing preference for, and endorsing one religion.”

While it’s true the courts have ruled that stand-alone religious displays are unconstitutional, that’s not the end of the story.  The Court has also admitted bad decisions are sometimes made and they can be overturned.

The current rule of thumb is to make sure some type of secular display is included in the vicinity of the nativity scene.  At the time of my visit, I saw just a typical manger scene spread across the lawn.

That’s when it hit me.  If FFRF pursues legal action against Jackson County, the resolve of this small community could play a pivotal role in securing religious freedom across the country.

It’s really quite simple.

FFRF correctly says that manger scenes depict the legendary birth of Jesus Christ.  Christians might add that manger scenes depict the moment in time God became man.

Imagine if the roles were reversed.  What if humanists erected depictions of mankind becoming a god?  Would that be unconstitutional?  To be clear, a man becoming a god is the antithesis of God becoming a man.

Such a depiction of a man becoming a god, called an apotheosis, marks the central belief of humanism:  man is his own god, and there is no other God.

Would it be unlawful for the State to maintain, erect, or host a sole apotheosis display?

Adorning the domed ceiling inside the US Capitol building is a painting called the Apotheosis of Washington.  Like any other apotheosis, the painting depicts the moment a man becomes a god.

Apotheosis of Washington inside the US Capitol Rotunda- Courtesy of Google Images

In 1863, Congress commissioned Constantino Brumidi to paint the Apotheosis for $40,000.  There are no Santa’s, candy canes, or Christmas trees to detract from the display.  This stand-alone depiction of a man becoming a god is prominently displayed on government property and paid for by our government.

I believe this is why court cases which declare sole nativity displays unconstitutional such as City of Allegheny v. ACLU of Pittsburgh (1989) and Lynch v. Donnelly (1984) should be overturned:

Either Congress violated the Constitution when it commissioned the Apotheosis of Washington, or the Court is wrong.

Kudos to the citizens of Jackson County, Indiana for standing their ground.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for checking out my blog! Here you will find my articles, Bible verses that have special meaning to me, devotions, and stories from my travels.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” — Proverbs 3:5-6

Mount Mitchell, North Carolina

I cherish alone time with God. Even Jesus had to break away from the crowds and be by himself. I guess that’s why I like to take journeys.

It’s no secret that I often take spontaneous road trips to random destinations. This week I headed west. That’s it. Just west. “It’s the journey, not the destination,” I thought. Besides, I craved alone time with God. No crowds, just Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 had been stuck on repeat in my mind for three straight days. What is God trying to show me? I had questions; He has the answers.

Three hours later, I reached the summit of Mount Mitchell, North Carolina, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. The abandoned parking lot brought forth a sigh of hopeful optimism. “This is perfect; now talk to me, Lord,” I whispered.


I jotted down my observations while I waited for God to speak. It was eerily quiet. There were no birds crying out above the treetops, no traffic noise, not even leaves rustling in the gentle breeze.

In the distance to the southwest I saw Clingman’s Dome, Tennessee. Grandfather Mountain posed for me in the east. Houses sparsely dotted the landscape below. I quickly jotted my thoughts. “view, unobstructed, clear, pinnacle, peak, alone.” It made sense. “I get it. You’re showing me your omniscient perspective- You alone can see the big picture of my life.”

View from Mount Mitchell, North Carolina. Grandfather Mountain is the highest peak in the far background.

The Journey Down the Mountain

“17 Miles to empty.” I’d just descended to the park entrance when my mountaintop experience itself descended into fear and worry.

I spent the next 45 minutes in fervent prayer: “Lord, please let me make it to a gas station!”

As I crept into the nearest gas station, I was met with this message on the gas pump’s screen:

“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14”

“Jehovah-Jireh, The-Lord_Will_Provide,” I smiled.

How often do we long for a mountaintop experience with God, yet fail to realize He is right there with us in the valley, inviting us to just trust Him completely?