The Catholic League recently sent nativity scenes of the Holy Family to the 50 governors of the United States. So far, the group says, the responses received have been “overwhelmingly” positive.
The Catholic League explains that there is no constitutional prohibition barring privately-funded scenes from being displayed alongside secular symbols on capitol grounds.
CNA spoke about the nativity scenes with Catholic League communications director Jeff Field. He explained that the group “just wanted to make it clear that it’s okay for the government to display religious symbols at Christmastime. As long as they are not paying for it, there is no problem with displaying a religious scene.
“It’s perfectly reasonable and perfectly appropriate for the government to recognize the holiday.”
He reported that the Catholic League received an “overwhelmingly positive” response from about a dozen governors.
Idaho Gov. C.L. Otter plans to display his nativity scene in his capitol’s ceremonial office, while Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will display his state’s set in the executive mansion.
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen also sent “a kind letter” in response.
Field told CNA that Washington state has said that they will not display the nativity set because of a rule disallowing any displays. Several years ago the state suffered a “circus” of controversy involving a variety of displays at the capitol.
However, Washington is the only state known to have declined the display of the set and the Catholic League is seeking permission for an alternative arrangement there.
Other pre-Christmas actions of the Catholic League include a billboard on the New York side of the Lincoln Tunnel which shows a nativity scene. The large sign, captioned “You Know It’s Real: This Season Celebrate Jesus,” wishes motorists a Merry Christmas.
The display counters a billboard the group American Atheists purchased on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel. Erected over the weekend, that billboard reads “You Know It’s a Myth: This Season Celebrate Reason.”
Catholic League President Bill Donohue said his organization decided to “counterpunch” after a donor sought to challenge the atheist group’s “anti-Christmas statement.”
“Our approach is positive, and services the common good. Theirs is negative, and is designed to sow division. It's what they do,” he commented.
“So after Christian motorists have had their sensibilities assaulted as they exit New Jersey, they will experience a sense of joy, and satisfaction, as they enter New York City. It's what we do.”