A coalition of churches and individual Christians in Santa Monica, Calif., has decided to not let a city ban on Nativity scene displays at a public park deter them from showing their outward expressions of Christmas. Complete with an ensemble of people dressed as historical figures present at the time of Jesus' birth, groups began singing Christmas carols and telling the Nativity story at a park next to the city's pier Monday evening. They plan to continue each night until Dec. 23.
Some are calling the action a "creative loophole" in the recent ruling because it applies to unmanned nativity displays such as the ones at the park hosted by the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee for 59 years. While some of the city's Christian leaders are saying that, in spite of the ban, the chance to be present and interact with those visiting the park is a blessing.
"What I'm realizing this year that's exciting for me is that we are continuing to say we don't think that we are the only ones who get to celebrate this time of year," said Pastor Steve Snook of Metro Calvary Chapel Church in Santa Monica. "The idea is that everybody can celebrate the materialism of Christmas. They can celebrate the lights and family and all these things, but we want to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas and we're going to do it." more >>
Despite having to relocate to private property after losing a legal battle, the 60th annual display of the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes will be available for viewing beginning this Sunday at the Southern California beach-side city.
"The community Christmas tradition will return to full strength this year with 14 scenes featuring life-size figures depicting events surrounding Christ's birth," said organizers.
"We are deeply grateful for the use of this new site to allow all of Santa Monica's distinctive Christmas Story to continue spreading the message of joy, hope, and peace found in the Christ child's birth to residents and visitors," said Nativity Scenes Committee Chairman Hunter Jameson. more >>
Officials in Chester County, Pennsylvania recently denied a request by local Pastafarian members to have their pasta-covered pine tree displayed on the county's courthouse lawn next to a traditional Christmas tree and a menorah.
"I don't stand in judgement of people's beliefs no matter what they are, God, multiple gods, spaghetti, or lasagna. Whatever you want to worship, there is nothing the government can do to stop you," County commissioner Ryan Costello told the Pastafarians in attendance at a Nov. 27 public meeting.
"I just don't think that this is where our focus should be now. We have something in place and I think we should follow it," Costello added. more >>
A national coalition of Christian groups has joined the fray over the ending of the nearly 60-year tradition of Nativity scenes at a park in Santa Monica, Calif., by announcing it will hold a "Live Nativity Display" on Saturday, Dec. 8. The announcement comes on the same day a U.S. District Judge officially dismissed a lawsuit filed by a local church coalition seeking to challenge the city's ban on Nativity and other seasonal displays in public areas.
The Live Nativity Display campaign is being led by the Christian Defense Coalition and Faith and Action, which are both based in Washington, D.C., along with local Southern California Christians and pastors.
"Sadly, we are seeing an erosion of expressions of faith in the public square," said the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. "This is especially true during the Christmas season. We must be constantly reminded that the Constitution promises freedom 'of' religion not freedom 'from' religion. more >>
The debate got heated last night on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" when host Bill O'Reilly and David Silverman, president of the American Atheists organization, went head to head on the issue of Christmas and Christianity.
While Silverman argued that the government needs to practice neutrality toward all religions, and therefore not honor Christmas as a federal holiday because it is a Christian tradition, O'Reilly argued that Christianity is "not a religion, it is a philosophy," and therefore all non-religious Americans can honor Christmas.
The debate began with O'Reilly, a self-proclaimed Roman Catholic, questioning Silverman: "Why are you messing around with my tradition, why are you messing around with Christmas? Just leave it alone." more >>
Pope Benedict XVI's latest book, The Infancy Narratives: Jesus of Nazareth, challenges popular beliefs about Jesus' birth, but Roman Catholic officials have squashed media headlines that seem to portray the pope as a sort of Christmas grinch.
"I think that what people need to realize here is that the pope is trying to be as historical as he can be," said Father Robert Dodaro, professor of patristics, or the study of early Church writings, at Rome's Patristic Institute.
"He wants to see the biblical narratives as history where possible but he is also trying to explain details in the narratives that cannot be historically verified," he added. more >>