The “War on Christmas” in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania November 26, 2009

The “War on Christmas” in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

In Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, local officials have allowed a Nativity scene to be placed near a local public fountain.

This is illegal, of course, but the PA Nonbelievers (PAN) took the high road in dealing with this.

They wanted to put up a sign near the Nativity Scene which would read “Celebrating Solstice — Honoring Atheist War Veterans.”


So how did that work out…?

Earlier this month, PAN Capital Area director Carl Silverman of Camp Hill wrote the borough a letter stating its intention to erect the sign. While the group believed it did not need the borough’s permission because the creche required none, it was submitting a proposed design in “the spirit of cooperation,” the letter said.

“We didn’t want to take Jesus out of the public square,” Silverman said. “We want to put atheism in the public square.”

(Correction to that article: Carl is actually a board member of the group, not the director)

Bill McLaughlin, president of Chambersburg’s borough council, decided he could either let *all* displays go up (a la the Washington Capitol building debacle from last Winter)… or he would have to allow none of them to go up.

He chose to allow none of them. Which is perfectly fine, of course.

The Christians don’t seem to feel the same way:

Lisa Blackstock of Mercersburg is spearheading a demonstration at noon Saturday in Chambersburg’s downtown. She believes the majority of people in the community want the creche to remain. “This is Christ-mas. It’s a no-brainer if you ask me,” Blackstock said. “There’s no way people in Chambersburg should let (PA Nonbelievers) win.”

Right… allow people of different beliefs to share space, and that’s apparently a victory for us and a loss for them? How arrogant do you have to be to think that way?

McLaughlin isn’t exactly endearing himself to the atheists, either, with soundbytes like this one:

“The down side of ‘everything’ is it means everything,” McLaughlin said. “It would mean this group, and groups that are much more odious.” That was something, he said, council could not live with.

“Much more odious”? As in the atheists are odious but others might be worse?!

Jerk. He wouldn’t say that about the Jews.

And what about this line from the same guy?

He said he had always known the day would come that the nativity scene would have to be banned.

In other words, he knew what the city council was allowing was illegal, but he continued to allow it, anyway? Why is this guy still in office?

The last paragraph in the article is particularly noteworthy:

A solution may be on the horizon. Central Presbyterian Church, on the square across from the fountain, is considering construction of a perch on its property where the Nativity scene could be displayed.

This is exactly what should’ve happened from the beginning. Let the church put up a religious display on their own property. Not in the public square.

See? It’s not that complicated.

(Thanks to Scott for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Though I enjoy reading these articles, they’re also a dime a dozen. So often various religious groups want to be granted the same recognition as the others – equal opportunity to express themselves. But then the original group doesn’t want to share the spotlight.

    Reminds me of nieces – 6 and 2 years old.

  • Dave B.

    Jerk. He wouldn’t say that about the Jews.

    Is this the atheist version of “You wouldn’t dare say that about Muslims”?

  • … No.

    The “You wouldn’t dare say that about Muslims” remark is from people who are pissed that their religion doesn’t allow you to wish death upon someone else. It’s fatwa envy.

    “He wouldn’t say that about the Jews” is just revealing that it’s still okay to discriminate against atheists in ways that it would never be okay to discriminate against other groups.

  • The Other Tom

    It seems to me that allowing the nativity display was fine, as long as they allowed anyone else who asked to make a display of their self expression there too.

    However, by forbidding it immediately the moment anyone non-christian came along and asked, they’ve demonstrated clearly that their town government respects an establishment of religion over others, so I think it’s their change of policy that could get them sued.

  • keddaw

    “This is Christ-mas. It’s a no-brainer if you ask me,” Blackstock said.

    Cool, does that mean he would welcome a celebration of the Roman God Janus during January?

  • That’d be cool, Keddaw. And I wonder how many people even know how we got the names for our days of the week.

  • muggle

    Frankly, it was the right decision to take them all out of the public square.

    Silverman seems to be upset about this but that’s because he also wants to put in the public square what doesn’t belong there. Let them all move to private property. The Council made the right decision even if it was for the wrong reasons but who cares? As long as they made the right decision? The government should be neutral.

    Hemant, you sure he didn’t mean the Jews by that crack about this group or groups more odious? I’m not. Could mean that he meant Muslims or Satanists were more odious but it could also be the Jews, as far as we know. Let’s not ask him to clarify, please.

  • I’m looking forward to the War on Christmas this year. I’ve mined the chimney, put razor wire around my guttering and I’m planning on poisoning the milk and cookies. There’s no way that bearded bastard will get away this year.

  • teammarty

    I fight my own little was on X-mas by not participating.
    Remember the reason for the season.
    Happy Solstice.

  • Don


    One of my colleagues always puts a ‘Put the Christ back in Christmas’ sign on his office door, I generally respond with a ‘Put the Thor back in Thorsday’ sign.

    It really only works if you’re a Geordie.

  • cathy

    “He wouldn’t say that about the Jews” May hold true in some parts of America, put I’m from that area and it’s Klan country with Neo-Nazi and Catholic Anti-seminte groups too. Here’s the Southern Poverty Law Center’s marked hate groups and they only consider groups who have commited or who routinely advocate direct violence (consider population distribution as well, Chambersburg area is not heavily populated and towns like St Thomas have only a few hundred people)
    For reference, here’s where Chambersburg is,+PA&gl=us&ei=VDAQS87uDZLAlAfEhpyWBA&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CBQQ8gEwAA

    My hometown is an hour away from Chambersburg and 15 minutes away from St. Thomas and personally, I’d be more afraid as a Jewish person than as a white atheist in that area.

  • Michael

    Hey, I’m no Philosopher…. but in my humble opinion, I must ask this question: Why is seeing signs about Atheism so offensive to ‘believers’? Could it be that they’re afraid of what a careful look at their beliefs might reveal about them to themselves? Could it be that they’re afraid to face the falseness & emptiness of their beliefs…. They act like admitting the truth would destroy their lives…. and maybe it should. Maybe that would be a good thing. Believing in falsehoods is not good for anyone. And by the way, they say they’re offended by our signs……….. Well I’M OFFENDED BY THEIR DAMN SIGNS WHEREVER I LOOK!!! SO F THEM!

  • K

    Christ-mas isn’t about Christ anymore. Try telling that to all the nutcases participating in the annual Black Friday insanity. Go and tell them that it isn’t AT ALL about the presents, the shopping, the sales… but about a baby king and slavemaker named Jesus.

    And on a side note, let’s put Freya back in Friday. She was one Norse/pagan goddess I could be hip to. 😉

  • DH

    Wow, that’s an incredibly childish response from a government official (not that experience hasn’t taught me not to expect it). He’s acting the same way about atheists as teenage pot smokers do about cops. “Why do you gotta hassle us dude? We’re just expressing ourselves” Yeah, you’re doing it illegally and you know you’re breaking the law but when someone asks “Hey can we break the law with you guys?” they’re the bad guys?

  • Bob

    What’s wrong with this picture is this group is only honoring atheist veterans. I think excluding everyone else who served our country is as dishonorable as a Christian organization choosing to only recognize veterans belonging to the Christian faith.

    The fact that many vocal atheists don’t see or have an issue with that is as much a concern about atheism as anyone else promoting an exclusionary religious ideology.

  • Laura

    Bob is criticizing the atheists who want to honor atheist veterans, claiming it’s as dishonorable for atheists to honor only atheist veterans as it is for Christians to honor only other Christians.

    I don’t quite see it that way. I don’t see it as atheists being exclusionary; rather, I see it as atheists wanting to be included along with the Christians who are already the honored majority.

    I’ve seen this happen with gay people. When gay people ask to be included, there are straight people who complain that the gay people want “special rights”. When Black people ask for what everyone else has, they’re accused of “taking over”. I’ve heard similar complaints about women.

    I think dominant majorities feel threatened when a minority becomes visible and asks for the same rights the majority has.

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