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Celebrating Religious Holidays in Public

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It is unconstitutional for local, state or federal

governments to favor one religion over another?

Government can show favoritism toward religion by

displaying religious symbols in public places

at taxpayer expense, by sponsoring events like Christmas

concerts, caroling, or by supporting the teaching of

religious ideas. It appears the United States

government has had a history of favoring Christianity.

The United States government's favoritism of Christianity

is a clear violation of the First Amendment. This amendment

states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an

establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

There is another reference to religion in Article 6,

Section 3. This clause states "the United States and the several

States shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution,

but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any

office or public trust under the United States."

There have been several court cases on this and related issues

which include Engel vs. Vitale, Everson vs. the Board of Education,

and Lynch vs. Donnelly, the "Creche case".

In 1947, in the Everson vs. Board of Education

case, the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th amendment

prevented the States and the and the Federal government

from setting up a church, passing laws that favor any religion, or

using tax money to support any religion. Justice Hugo Black

"incorporated" the First Amendment's establishment clause into the

14th Amendment which states that "the State shall not deny any

person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws and due

process. After this trial, people began to question whether school

prayer was constitutional (pg. 93-94, Klinker).

The "creche case," Lynch vs. Donnelly, came from

Rhode Island in 1980. In this case, the city official


a creche, or nativity scene, in their city's annual Christmas

display that included all traditional Christmas symbols.

Chief Justice Warren E. Burger represented the court's opinion

when he stated that, "Nor does the constitution require

complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively

mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions,

and forbids hostility toward any." Justices Brennan, Marshall, Blackman,

and Stevens dissented. They thought the "primary effect of including a

nativity scene in the city's display is. . . to place the government's impremature

approval on the particular religion's beliefs exemplified by the creche."

They argued that it clearly violated the First Amendment (p. 99, Witt).

These cases demonstrate a pattern of Constitutional thought by high

courts prohibiting the promotion of particular religious ideas, and the

spending of tax dollars on events that promote particular religious views.

A logical extension of this pattern can be made to the spending of tax

dollars for decorating towns on religious holidays, such as Christmas.

Local, state, and federal governments attempt to get

around the prohibitions of the Everson and Lynch

cases by decorating the streets in town with non-religious symbols

such as lights, trees, wreaths and other objects that symbolize the

season. But, religious people think the season itself



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