Air Force Base Says No to Atheists; Nativity Scene Will Stay Up

In spite of pressure from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, California's Travis Air Force Base says it is keeping its Nativity scene and Menorah displays right where they are.

"While we appreciate the concerns raised by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Office of the Air Force Judge Advocate General, upon review, concluded the inclusion of a Wing Chaplain sponsored nativity scene and Menorah as part of a broader, secular holiday seasonal display does not violate the establishment clause of the United States Constitution," read a statement, which was provided to Fox News & Commentary.

In a letter sent to Col. Dwight C. Sones, commander of the 60th Air Mobility Wing, MRFF attorney Katherine Ritchey said the displays are a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause. Part of the MRFF's complaint, she explains in the letter sent Dec. 19, is that it appears the display was given preferential treatment because of its location on the base.

“Although Travis has allowed some groups to install secular displays on the base,” she wrote, “the two religious symbols ... were placed at the busiest intersection of the base in the most prominent position of all the displays.”

Ritchey also says that the Nativity would not be in violation of the First Amendment if it were located near the chapel. The MRFF is demanding the display to either be moved to the chapel or taken down altogether.

California Church Impact, a Sacramento, Calif.-based public policy organization representing members from 51 different denominations, also sent a letter to the base on Dec. 19, but their response was not what some might expect. They, too, want the Nativity moved to the base's chapel.

“The Nativity is a key symbol for the Christian community,” wrote Elizabeth Sholes, director of public policy of CCI, in a letter to Sones. “Submerged into a putative 'secular holiday display' and surrounded it with a generic, not religious, icons, means that the Nativity has become no more valuable than Rudolph as part of Christmas.”

She later added, “We ask again – please move the Nativity to the chapel where it’s profoundly important religious value is made manifest and where it does not put the U.S. Air Force in the position of simultaneously promoting Christianity and demeaning it.”

The Nativity display at Travis Air Force Base is just one of many public Christmas displays that have come under fire during this year's “War on Christmas.”

J.P. Duffy, vice president for communications at the Family Research Council, mentioned the situation at Travis Air Force Base in a recent article, in which he explains that anti-Christmas sentiment “is becoming much more difficult to ignore.”

He explains in the article, which appeared in U.S. News and World Report, how he watched last week as a group of Christmas carolers entered a Maryland post office to sing, but were stopped by the postal manager moments after they began.

The postal manager told them they had to leave, and told them, “You can't go into Congress and sing” so “you can't do it here either.”

The manager was then booed by other postal customers, but he wouldn't budge on the issue. The carolers said they had sung at the post office many years before without any problems.

“I encouraged them to file a complaint but they told me that they were there to sing a couple of carols – not to stir controversy,” Duffy wrote.

“I would speculate that there are many similar skirmishes in the 'War on Christmas' that go unnoticed by the media because most people are just like these carolers. They simply want to celebrate their Christmas traditions as they've always done and aren't looking for a confrontation with a militant secularist.”

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