.- Several legislators gathered with civil and religious rights groups last week on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to kick off a national “Nativity Project” and affirm the right of Christians to speak of Jesus’ birth during the celebration of Christmas.
Senator Sam Brownback, along with U.S. Representatives Walter Jones and Trent Franks, joined with leaders of the Christian Defense Coalition and D.C.-based Faith and Action to lend their support for the public display of nativity scenes to remind the country that, “the birth of Jesus…is the reason for the season,” according to the Cybercast News Service.
Kansas’s Sen. Brownback told the group, who had erected a temporary nativity scene on the Capitol grounds that, "it's okay to talk about the birth of Jesus at Christmas."
“We need to have these expressions of religion,” Brownback said, “It's important for America."
Rep. Jones added that the country "is about freedom of religion no matter what your religion is," and he encouraged Jews, Muslims, and Americans of other faiths to express their beliefs as well.
The “Nativity Project” was initiated to urge Christians to apply for permits to display nativity scenes on public property in their towns Dec. 19-22.
Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said his group had obtained a permit from U.S. Capitol Police to display their nativity - which included three wise men, a shepherd, Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus - during the news conference as a way to show supporters that it can be done.
Mahoney told CNS News that his group was "getting calls from all across America" from people interested in setting up their own nativity scenes on public land.
Sen. Brownback also used the occasion to urge his peers to pass the Public Expressions of Religion Act. The act would eliminate legal fees associated with Establishment Clause challenges to public expressions of religion. The House has already passed a version of the bill, which Brownback authored.