Nativity Scene Will Be Displayed in Nebraska Capitol Rotunda
Nebraska’s Legislature is supposedly unicameral & non-partisan, but looking at their Wiki page (which provides party affiliation “for informational purposes only”) it seems to be very red, This move to put a nativity scene in the Capitol Rotunda strikes me as very right-wing. It strikes me as such not only because of the religious aspect, but also because of the involvement of its very anti-choice stance. You can read more about them on Wikipedia, but visiting their website (donotlink.com) will give you a much better idea of just how far right they are.
Nebraska is not alone in this display—a nativity scene is also displayed in the Illinois Capitol Rotunda and has been since 2008 (the Thomas More Society was also involved in that one). That year, the nativity scene there was also joined by a menorah, a Festivus pole, and a sign containing an atheist message (which was stolen). I didn’t look into what has happened in the intervening years. The Illinois State Legislature is bicameral and has a Democratic majority.
Apparently, this has been framed as a free speech issue and there are several other states that allow it. A quick Google search indicates that Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (where the FSM made an appearance) have followed suit—there may very well be others that I missed.
Naturally, the tolerance for free speech quickly evaporates when the requesting groups aren’t Christian or Jewish (I’m not going to say Judeo-Christian because given the history of antisemitism that term is misleading at best). For example: Last year, after Hindus, Satanists, and animal rights groups requested permission to add their displays, Oklahoma suddenly decided it had enough and stopped taking requests for more.
I don’t know how things panned out in Oklahoma, but last year Florida rejected a Satanic display as “grossly offensive.” Apparently, they failed to grasp the irony in that: free speech protections are in our Constitution precisely because some points of view are unpopular.
This year, when the Satanists brought along their lawyers, Florida relented. Last month, Slate published quite the snarky (but true) article about the kerfuffles, the title & subtitle of which caused me to LOL:
Thanks to conservative Supreme Court rulings, the government must support the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Satanic Temple.
By the way, the Michigan State Capitol will also be getting a Satanist display, presumably after having taken note of what happened in Florida. It looks like there might be a fight brewing in Texas (this is the first year they approved a display).
Anyway, back to Nebraska now, added emphasis mine:
Nebraska State Capitol DomeThe Chicago-based Thomas More Society has received permission to set up a Nativity scene in the Capitol Rotunda in Lincoln.
The display in the seat of state government represents constitutionally protected free speech and expression of religious faith by private citizens in a public forum, Tom Brejcha, Thomas More Society president and chief attorney, said in a press release. […]
Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers said the display was one of the worst things he has seen happen while a member of the Legislature. It is especially abhorrent because lawyers are doing it, he said. Not one of them could give a cogent argument justifying the placing of a Christian icon in the Rotunda, he said.
“Except for the fact that I am a man who believes in using legal processes to address inappropriate use of state facilities, I would dismantle it and remove it myself,” he said. […]
There is also a question of whether it will open the door to other religious displays in the building.
Um, NO. There is no question that it will open the doors to other religious displays. Precedent has already been set—it’s too late to close the barn door.
The religious right really needs to think things through more carefully. They should also stop wrapping themselves in the flag and claiming to be patriotic defenders of the First Amendment, then putting their hypocritical intolerance on display for all to see—freedom for me, but not for thee is not how it works.