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HomeIllinois NewsNativity scene returns to IL State Capitol

Nativity scene returns to IL State Capitol




SPRINGFIELD – Since 2007, every year a group of Springfield residents has organized and funded a nativity scene to be displayed in the Illinois State Capitol's rotunda. The Springfield Nativity Scene Committee, founded by the late Daniel Zanoza, celebrated the season's start at the Capitol Wednesday.

Local pastors, activists and state lawmakers participated in the annual ceremony. Thomas Brejcha, an attorney with the Thomas More Society that has represented the committee over the years and fought for their right to display the nativity scene, expressed his thoughts about the legalities of the display.

"So long as these Christmas religious displays and ceremonies are privately sponsored, funded, and held in traditional public forums, they are constitutionally protected," said Brejcha. "Even the ACLU concedes that our Capitol Rotunda Nativity Scene is fully protected by the First Amendment. Christians have as much right to proclaim the joyful message of Jesus Christ's birth as political candidates have to get up on soap boxes to spout their own messages in our public squares."

The nativity displays represent a constitutionally protected expression by private citizens in a traditional or designated public forum, Brejcha wrote a few years ago.

"This is classic free speech, as well as citizens’ free exercise of their religious faith in the public square, where the sole role of the government is that of a viewpoint-neutral gatekeeper assuring open access for all citizens to have their 'say,'" he waid.

Government is neither censor nor endorser of such religious speech. The Christmas nativity display is privately funded and sponsored, bereft of any government aid or endorsement, and therefore it is clothed and armored with the full protection of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Thomas More Society provides legal support to the American Nativity Scene Committee and its affiliates around the country. They defend the right to proclaim and demonstrate to the public and to the media alike (statewide and nationwide) that such private expressions of religious belief in the public squares of the nation are not merely tolerated but fully deserving of robust legal protection.

As far back as 2014, Thomas More Society assisted in securing permits for nativity displays in the state capitols of Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Rhode Island, Texas, Michigan, and Nebraska, as well as in front of the Governor’s mansion in Oklahoma, and in public places in 21 other states.


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