2018 | Week of December 3 | #1285
This past Monday, our staff made our annual early December trek to the state capitol first floor rotunda, laden with bins and easels, tables and signs and, yes, permits from the state giving us permission for our errand. Unlike some other trips we make to the state capitol from time to time, we make this one very happily because we know we are bringing the truth directly to thousands of people who will visit our beautiful capitol building over the next month.
The bins we hauled were filled with figures for a table-top nativity display. Our signs boldly and brightly declare that while it may sound like a cliché, it’s not—Jesus really is the reason for the season.
Soon there will be choirs in the rotunda singing Christmas songs—including traditional carols—with their voices echoing throughout the building. The official State Christmas tree is standing tall in the middle of the rotunda, decorated with lights and hand-made ornaments from school children all across the state. This year’s ornament theme is “Wisconsin: America’s Dairyland.” In the spirit of the season as evidenced by these trappings, we set about putting up the display, being careful to place the figures securely and properly, making sure that Baby Jesus, the Christ Child, is the center of attention.
Ours isn’t the only display in the Rotunda. Nearby Freedom From Religion Foundation has its blasphemous and profoundly sad version of a nativity along with their equally sad Winter Solstice sign. In addition, this year there is a Chanukah display.
Having displays in the rotunda is pretty common. It makes a great place to proclaim one’s opinion on all sorts of issues and is an excellent reminder of the blessing of living in America where we still have the opportunity to tell people publicly what we believe on just about any issue.
Each Christmas as we put up this display in the Capitol my mind goes back to the late 1990s. I had just started working for Wisconsin Family Council in October of that year. In early December, I learned about “the battle of the signs.”
Around 1995 or so Freedom From Religion Foundation received permission to put up a big banner boldly declaring that religion is but a myth, there is no God and December is all about the Winter Solstice, asserting that reason should prevail. Our organization, in response, sought permission to put up a banner with the truth about Christmas to counter that lie. At that point, the administration decided no banners would be put up, but signs meeting certain qualifications could be displayed with permission.
It’s been 23 years now that we’ve been displaying a Merry Christmas sign in the state capitol, and several years ago our sister organization Wisconsin Family Action added a beautiful table-top nativity. It was that nativity that prompted Freedom From Religion Foundation to put up its blasphemous and totally humanistic nativity, which includes Ben Franklin, the Statue of Liberty, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson looking down at a cradle in which lies a copy of the Bill of Rights. The accompanying sign reads “At this Season of the Winter Solstice, join us in honoring the Bill of Rights, adopted on December 15, 1791, which reminds us there can be no religious freedom without the freedom to dissent. Keep religion and government separate!”
The real tragedy is that so many people will visit our state capitol over the next 30 days or so to see the beautiful Christmas trees in the rotunda and in the Governor’s Conference Room and to listen to choirs sing over the noon hour. And they’ll see all of the displays as well and be exposed to both the truth and the lie about this season of the year.
We put our sign and nativity up for a couple of reasons—the most important of which is countering those lies—and the second is to exercise our religious freedom. The First Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits government from interfering with religion and guarantees citizens the right to exercise their religion, including celebrating Christmas, in the privacy of our homes and churches and also in the public square.
But more importantly we want to be sure those who visit our state capitol this season know that it’s not about the Winter Solstice; it’s about the God Who created the Winter Solstice. It’s not about empty humanism; it’s about the Creator God Who provided a Savior for desperately needy humans. We believe that’s a message well worth sharing everywhere, at all times.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”