In Chicago's Daley Plaza, wedged between – and in front of – the traditional nativity display and a giant menorah, there sits something new this year: an 8-foot-tall letter "A" lit up in red.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) placed the big "A" in downtown Chicago. They say the "A" stands for Atheist, but it also represents Attack, given its timing and placement. While the nativity scene is linked to Christmas, and the menorah is part of Hanukah, the only apparent purpose for this lighted letter "A" is to demean the other displays.
In Florida's State Capitol, the rotunda is available to different groups who apply for space. In early December, a group called the Florida Nativity Scene Committee sponsored a traditional nativity scene of Jesus' birth to mark the Christmas season. FFRF wasted little time in snagging a spot immediately following them, displaying what they describe as a "nativity scene parody in which Ben Franklin, the Statue of Liberty, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison on bended knee, gaze adoringly at a copy of the Bill of Rights in a crib." This display is not an expression of faith or faithlessness, or even a political statement, but an uncalled-for attack on the traditional nativity.
At one time, FFRF had tried to block displays of traditional nativities like these by bullying state and local governments into censorship. In some places, the bullying worked, but as more and more municipalities started looking into the law themselves – in lieu of taking FFRF's word for it – they learned that the U.S. Constitution doesn't actually mandate the elimination of anything remotely religious.
The Constitution provides Americans with a freedom of religion, not a freedom from religion. Thus, religious symbols are appropriate for view in public spaces, no matter how much a few might wish for them to be stricken from sight.
As Christians have successfully stood up for their nativity scenes, the activist group started pushing for their own atheism scenes – figuring prominently in the same locations at the same time – in a blatant effort to disparage the existing displays.
Accepting that they couldn't censor them, FFRF decided to tarnish them, and FFRF is not the only culprit.
In Times Square, the American Atheists currently sponsor a digital billboard asking the question, "Who needs Christ during Christmas?" and abruptly answering, "Nobody." This is not a positive remark in favor of atheism or any other semblance of "freethinking," but a mean-spirited belittling of the Christian faith.
FFRF claims that they and other activist atheists are just exercising their First Amendment rights. But, again, they misrepresent what the Constitution says. The First Amendment has a free speech clause, not a free insult clause. Though offensive speech can and ought to be protected in the context of sharing unpopular viewpoints, the protection fades when the speech is designed to defame or harm.
The liberal media may have made fun of the "war on Christmas" in the past, but as politically-active atheists continue to trash the true meaning of the holiday and try to establish a Christ-less Christmas, the existence of a battleground as well as the battle are becoming clear.
We would do well to be engaged in this battle and vigilant about protecting our constitutionally protected freedoms. Otherwise, aggressive atheists will turn Christmas into "A" mas.