We often hear about Nativity scenes on government property in the U.S. and the battles that take place over them. But we don’t always hear about similar problems that take place in Puerto Rico.
They follow the same rules of church/state separation and, a couple of days ago, atheists there held a public protest against the Christian-only displays on government property. The Humanistas Seculares de Puerto Rico (HuSe) stood outside the San Juan Judicial Center and said that either all displays must be allowed or none of them can be:
HuSe Board Member Dr. Victor Rivera explained the motivation for the protest in an email (modified for clarity):
In early December of this year, based on complaints from members of the organization that crèche displays have been placed in most of Puerto Rico’s court houses, the group immediately sent a letter to judge/attorney Isabel Llompart-Zeno, who administers all of the court houses, requesting equal space to place a secular message beside each crèche scene all over the island.
As Christmas Day approached, and having received no definite response from the administrative judge on the subject, our group took to the streets on Tuesday and (in a symbolic act) called a press conference in front of the courthouse of Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan.
We were not allowed to go into the lobby of the courthouse (though other protestors in the past have been allowed). So we were told to remain at street level were we displayed our secular message, a short version of the Freedom from Religion Foundation organization’s solstice message.
For an island that’s more than 97% Christian, that’s a big freakin’ deal.