Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Making the baby Jesus cry

Green Bay is working on making Madison's Christmas VS Holiday tree kerfuffle look positively civil. Last week, Council President Chad Fradette decided that a nativity scene would spruce up the roof of the City Hall nicely and pushed approval of it through a committee that he chairs.

Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, among many others, took issue with the move, rightfully suggesting that it might kinda sorta break that whole "separation of church and state" thing that's, y'know, codified in the Constitution.

Mayor Jim Schmitt tried to diffuse criticisms of the display by allowing "any religious symbols" to be put on the roof alongside the nativity scene, but it would appear that he's now backpedaling and generally wishing that the whole issue would just go away.

From the Green Bay Press Gazette:

The City Council voted Tuesday night to leave [the nativity] in place until Dec. 26, and to impose a moratorium on any other religious display until the City Council and Schmitt could develop a set of guidelines.

The council voted 6-6, with Andy Nicholson, Chad Fradette, Guy Zima, Tom Denys, John Vander Leest and Tom Weber voting to keep it. Mayor Jim Schmitt cast the tie-breaker with a "yes" vote.

A Wiccan display was installed Friday. It is a white five-pointed star encircled by a wreath. Early Monday morning, someone flagged down a police officer to report seeing someone on a ladder at City Hall, taking down the display. The suspect fled, leaving the ladder. Police later found the damaged display in the shrubs.

So basically, because some dimwitted vandal decided to deface the Wiccan display, now no one but the Christians get to have their symbols up least, of course, until after the Christmas holiday has passed. Their excuse about needing to formulate a clear policy would hold more water if they took down the nativity, too, but that's not the case and their little boat is fast heading for a swamping.

I think the argument of a one Sean Ryan sums up the issue nicely:

Ryan, the man who had asked last weekend to display a Festivus pole, patterned after an episode of the TV show "Seinfeld," told the council he did it as a joke, meant to point out that religious displays don't belong at City Hall.

Ryan took exception to statements made by others saying the nativity scene was historical, not merely religious.

"I'm a Christian — don't tell me it's not my religion," Ryan said. "Saying it is not is to question (Jesus's) very greatness … But keep the nativity scene in is place — in churches, in our hearts and our homes."

Regardless of how "great" you personally feel Jesus was, it's a very sound argument and one that I don't understand why the proponents of the move don't seem to understand it. Religion and spirituality should be a private matter, left up to the individual and their chosen congregation(s). Why so many people feel the need to impose their personal choices on others is beyond me. Is their faith so flimsy that they need the external validation? The feeling of power and control over others? Surely that's no kind of faith at all, but rather a deep sense of insecurity and fear.


Palmer said...

Did you hear the mayor on WPR last night? When asked if Hindus or Buddhists asked to put up a display there, he said that he wouldn't let them. And he gave the lamest excuse - it's what the community wanted. So, if the community wants the government to give preference to one religion above all others, he has no problem violating the establishment clause.

What a maroon.

Emily said...

I missed that, but I can't say I'm surprised. The mayor sounds like he's seriously lacking in both backbone and brain.

The Lost Albatross