For seven Christmases (from Christmas 2000 through Christmas 2006), the City of Mt. Juliet displayed a Manger Scene as a part of its Christmas decorations in front of City Hall. This year’s decorations have gone up. There’s a lighted Christmas tree in front of the parking lot north of City Hall, and there are wreaths with red bows on the sign in front of City Hall — but there is no Manger Scene this year.
The rationale behind a Manger Scene at City Hall is easy to understand. Christmas is the annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus. Its the recognition of a historical fact, rather than an attempt to “establish religion.” We decorate, shop, exchange gifts, visit family, send cards, and cook holiday meals in an annual celebration of Jesus’ birth. Its silly to pretend that the holidays have nothing to do with Jesus. City Hall will be closed on Christmas Day. If a Manger Scene is not appropriate in front of City Hall, then by the same logic, December 25th ought to be just another business day.
Sadly, the discarding of the Manger Scene in Mt. Juliet is symptomatic of the culture. We want the “fun” without being reminded of the meaning. While Mayor Elam may not have gotten her first choice as city manager (remember Keith Bergman, Massachusetts champion of gay marriage and global warming?), it appears she was able to find a city manager who would get rid of that embarrassing old Manger Scene.
The irony is that other cities have found ways to continue to officially recognize Christmas as having something to do with Jesus. Even in Chicago, they continue to put up a Manger Scene in Daley Center Plaza every year.
When a dispute arose in Berkley, Michigan over the legality of a Manger Scene in front of City Hall, the Thomas More Law Center offered to defend the City for free.
According to Edward L. White III, trial counsel with the Thomas More Law Center, who sent the letter to the City, “Christmas is a National Holiday. The City of Berkley may legally display the nativity scene in the context of celebrating this holiday. There is no legal prohibition against the display of the nativity scene. The absence of the nativity scene would only demonstrate Berkley’s hostility toward religion and toward Christians.”
Wonder what explanation Mayor Elam and her new city manager have for ending the Manger Scene in front of Mt. Juliet’s City Hall?
UPDATE 11/30/2007: We can now report that the City of Mt. Juliet has reversed its earlier decision, and has now placed the Manger Scene outside, along with its other Christmas decorations. The location of the Manger Scene is new this year. In previous years, the Manger Scene was directly in front of City Hall. This year, it is across Caldwell St, in front of the city parking lot, next to the Christmas tree. But it is up. Your calls, emails, and messages made a difference!