This year with the Holidays (dreadfully) slowly approaching all we hear about on tv are the Holidays; occasionally specified to Christmas and Hanukkah, but typically without.
Since the United States was formed, religion and the separation of Church and State has been a constant battle. Many institutions like schools and businesses want to recognize the month of December because of the major holidays that lie within it, but controversies rise annually around this time in regards to religious displays and their appropriateness in government-funded and public places.
Court decisions have not been very clear on what they are allowing and what they aren’t in public displays. A court decision in Pawtucket, Rhode Island ruled that a Christmas nativity scene in a municipal square was constitutionally acceptable in the mid 1980s because of the scene’s secular significance, and argued that allowing the scene in a government-funded place does not promote Christianity, but recognizes the historic value in it.
Since the 1980s, though, the courts have been allowing and prohibiting different displays left and right. The cloudy grounds of what is considered constitutional and what isn’t has a lot of people guessing this season on what can be put on display and where.
Some states have done away with all decorations in government-funded places altogether to hopefully hinder all disputes in regards to religion in public places. Washington State, as of 2009, has banned all religious displays at their Capitol building due to Atheist remarks posted near the Christmas tree and Menorah that were always present during the Holiday season.
This video shows the story in more detail:
Is this a democratic move for the state of Washington?
Civic Republicans wouldn’t think so. They would appreciate the Atheist display as an act of political participation, but in a Civic Republican Democracy, the beliefs of the majority rule over the minority, and as of a poll taken in 2007 of the United States, 78.4% of adults practice Christian traditions, 1.7% of adults practice Jewish traditions and only 1.6% of adults were considered unaffiliated Atheists. The gaps between those practicing religious traditions and those who aren’t are quite large and the majority obviously does not lie with the unaffiliated Atheists. So although the Civic Republicans would love the participation and protest, the law shouldn’t have been passed since the majority of the population does not support it.
Classic Liberals would look at this in a different way; a means similar to how the courts view cases currently. Classic Liberals are very focused on the individual instead of the group and especially individual rights. During cases in regards to expression of religion, the first amendment is used as backing for why displays should be allowed, with the “Wall of Separation,” explaining the separation of Church and State, as the rebuttal. Unless banning religious displays in the Capitol Building spreads to banning religious displays in individual homes and businesses, no individual rights are breached and Class Liberals aren’t concerned.
In our country today, do you think banning all religious displays in the Capitol building of Washington State was democratic and constitutional?
Sources: http://pewforum.org/Church-State-Law/Religious-Displays-and-the-Courts.aspx , http://www.uri.edu/personal/hbak9412/Reldis.htm