The city of Belen, New Mexico has a Nativity Scene permanently displayed on public property, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent Mayor Jerah Cordova a letter warning him against the government’s promotion of Christianity.
Cordova has no plans to budge, though. Because, you know, the Bible.
“There’s no doubt that the city is going to fight, and fight hard to protect our name and the display,” Cordova said. “There’s only one thing that people know about Bethlehem and that’s where Christ was born and that’s what the Nativity represents.”
“What I think this organization is failing to take into account is our history and that our name means Bethlehem,” Cordova said. “That, I think, is more significant that their legal argument.”
That’s seriously his argument: Our city’s name has a religious origin, so we’re allowed to impose the majority faith on everybody else. I guess it won’t be long before all the Jews are expelled from Corpus Christi?
Look: Cordova is going to lose this battle. He can distort the Constitution all he wants, but unless he wants to pay FFRF’s legal fees, he needs to take down the crèche.
What’s especially amusing is the defense of the display offered by a local priest:
Father Clement Niggel, the new pastor at Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church, said he’s amazed what people will do.
“When the Constitution was written … it said, ‘One nation under God,’” Niggel said about the issue. “It’s a Christian nation and our nation was set up under Christian principles. Our society has traveled far from what the original Founding Fathers wanted for the country.”
“We’re going opposite from what the founders wanted,” Niggel said. “Our town was named after Bethlehem. It’s a great event that happened and it’s recognized around the world for what happened in Bethlehem. It’s a depiction of that historic event — and what’s wrong with history?”
If that sounds both wrong and familiar, maybe it’s because Niggel sounds like a character right out of a 2009 article in The Onion:
“Our very way of life is under siege,” said Mortensen, whose understanding of the Constitution derives not from a close reading of the document but from talk-show pundits, books by television personalities, and the limitless expanse of his own colorful imagination. “It’s time for true Americans to stand up and protect the values that make us who we are.”
“Right there in the preamble, the authors make their priorities clear: ‘one nation under God,'” said Mortensen, attributing to the Constitution a line from the Pledge of Allegiance, which itself did not include any reference to a deity until 1954. “Well, there’s a reason they put that right at the top.”
These people in Belen are parodies of themselves.
If The Onion is mocking you several years before you even open your mouth, I promise you the courts aren’t magically going to swing in your direction.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)