Rev. Patrick Mahoney was told by Capitol Police officials that he will face a potential arrest if he reads the Christmas story from the Bible and holds a Nativity display at the Capitol Christmas tree.
Rev. Mahoney’s attorney met with police officials Tuesday and explained to them his plans to hold a small nativity display; pray for peace, justice, religious freedom and political leaders; read the Christmas story from the Bible; and sing Christmas carols at the Capitol tree Thursday.
Police responded by informing Mahoney he could be arrested for his Christmas displays on the West lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building. They told him that some of his activities may be prohibited or constitute an illegal demonstration, according to a press release.
According to Mahoney, the director of the Christian Defense Coalition, this would be tragic and would display America’s hostility towards public expressions of faith.
The Assistant General Counsel for the Capitol police told Rev. Mahoney in an e-mail that his use of the Bible or the ornament (Nativity Scene) would convert the activity in the view of the Capitol Police into a prohibited demonstration.
“If you failed to discontinue that activity on police direction you would be risking ticketing or arrest,” Mahoney's lawyer Jim Henderson explained.
However, Mahoney still plans to hold his Christmas display at the Capitol tree. He claims it is hard to imagine that a minister, or any American, would face possible arrest or citation for reading the Christmas story.
He was told that the Bible could be considered a “prop,” making the reading of it on public property a crime.
According to Mahoney, the Capitol Christmas tree has no ornaments depicting the Christmas Story, the nativity, or Jesus. In response, he will bring the message of Christmas and Jesus to the White House lawn.
“Of thousands of ornaments on the Capitol Christmas Tree, not one depicts Christmas, baby Jesus or the nativity scene,” Mahoney said. “It is important to go there and sing Christmas carols, read the Christmas story from the Bible and share God’s love towards a broken and wounded nation.”
Mahoney is in disbelief that a Christmas tree, not holiday tree, doesn’t mention, “Merry Christmas,” the word “Christmas,” or the message of Christmas, which is peace on Earth.
He added, “I could hold sheet music, an instrument or camera in my hand, but if I hold a Bible or small Nativity Scene that would be considered a ‘prop’ and cause me to face arrest or citation.”
While Mahoney hopes and prays that the government allows to him to enact his Christmas displays, he is fully prepared to face arrest for his right to religious freedom.
“I will gladly risk arrest for my First Amendment rights and right to free speech,” Mahoney said. “We will not be intimidated or bullied.”
Mahoney believes that this conflict points to erosion of public expressions of faith in America. While he expresses his disbelief that a minster could arrested for reading the Bible, Mahoney quoted Thomas Jefferson, saying, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
“We should be vigilant when it comes to protecting our liberties or we will lose them… his is a clear signal that the faith community must stand for free speech and religious freedom,” Mahoney said.
If Mahoney is arrested for his Nativity display and reading the Bible, he is willing to fight it in court and file a lawsuit. He will also extend a national call for people to read the Bible in front of the Capitol Christmas tree.
Mahoney says this should be a wake-up call that our religious freedom of expression is under attack.