The War on Christmas is already heating up.
But in 2018, after a local Catholic church placed a Nativity scene on the premises, The city forced them to take it down. It was the right move since, after all, this was public property. It wasn’t private space for the Church to advertise its mythology.
To make sure that didn’t happen again, Mayor Paul Kuhns reiterated the ban on religious displays in no uncertain terms this past November:
Mayor Kuhns was pressed over why he holds this position and if he cared that his position has deeply offended Christians throughout the City that he represents.
“I don’t understand why Christians would be deeply offended,” Mayor Kuhns said. “We are basically saying that on public property, with public resources comes public responsibility and this [separation] of church and state is the city’s decision.”
Of course he was right about all that. This wasn’t some anti-Christian move. It was merely government neutrality on a matter of religion. It’s not like the Nativity scene was banned, but a Menorah, Satanic symbol, and sign promoting atheism were allowed to go up.
But on Tuesday, the right-wing First Liberty Institute announced that it was suing the city on behalf of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic group that wanted to erect the Nativity.
Their argument is that the Nativity had gone up for decades without complaints — they say 2018 was not the first year of the display, only that it had been placed in different locations near the Bandstand — therefore the (bad) tradition should be allowed to continue.
“The Knights of Columbus simply wants to continue a beloved tradition of this town,” said Roger Byron, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “It is perfectly lawful to have a crèche on public property, and blatantly unlawful to ban it.”
That’s a lie. Courts have routinely said secular displays on public property are fine. Unless all religious displays are allowed to go up as well, then a blanket ban on religious and explicitly non-religious displays is okay.
The lawsuit claims that other religious groups were permitted to put up displays, but they chose not to, which is why the Knights of Columbus feels singled out. But that still doesn’t negate the fact that the local policy in question doesn’t give special preference to one belief over another. It’s fine as is.
There’s no reason a judge should take any of this seriously. But if the Nativity goes up, I know some Satanists who will be thrilled to give Baby Jesus a new neighbor.