Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Recent commentary: free exercise of religion

Should nativity scenes be displayed on government property during the Christmas season?

(published 24-Dec-2007, Appleton Post-Crescent)

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". The key phrase is "free exercise". Nothing prohibits, say, Skokie, IL, from erecting a huge menorah for Hanukkah. How lawyers figure that city governments shouldn't have "free exercise" is beyond me. The Green Bay nativity scene kerfuffle escalated when a Wiccan display was vandalized. (Personally I liked the "Flying Spaghetti Monster" idea, but that's just me.) Now the mayor wants only "legitimate" religions to erect displays. There's a Constitutional issue for you: How do you define a "legitimate" religion? Then came the standard over-reaction. Council VP, Chris Wery, has changed his mind: "I thought this would encourage our community to share good will this holiday season, and, as we've seen, it's done the opposite." No, it hasn't. All it shows is that people are sensitive about religion and that some people have bad manners.

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