The Freedom From Religion Foundation went near-nuclear when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker started referring to the annual “holiday” spruce as a “Christmas” tree. If that minor action is what led the group’s co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, to call Walker “…a Teabagger governor wearing religion on his sleeves,” one wonders just how venomous her language will get now that a nativity scene has been placed in the state capitol. Now, the group is planning to respond with its own “slightly blasphemous” version of the nativity.
Christmas, a holiday that has many secular elements, but one that is rooted in the Christian faith, often comes along with a fair share of debate surrounding the separation of church and state. Now, for the first time in recent memory, WISC-TV is reporting that an undoubtedly Christian depiction has been placed in the state’s Madison capitol. The capitol has, in the past, hosted menorahs and other religious displays, but the presence of the nativity scene is raising some eyebrows.
Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Action, the conservative organization responsible for the nativity, has come out defending the exhibition. “We think it’s a very tasteful presentation,” she said. It is, of course, important to note that while it was the governor who began using the word “Christmas” to describe the tree in the rotunda, the new nativity scene was put together by a private group.
Of course, Gaylor doesn’t agree with the display’s presence. “We just don’t think a nativity scene belongs in the Wisconsin State Capitol,” she says. “It’s the seat of state government and everybody should feel welcome there.”
In commenting on the nativity display, Gaylor said, “There’s no war on Christmas, there’s a war on the Constitution during the entire month of December.”
In an effort to show further opposition to the nativity, Gaylor’s group is planning what she calls a “slightly blasphemous…irreverent tweak on the nativity scene.” The FFRF is currently seeking a permit for the display.
Appling, though, doesn’t see why there’s a controversy. She contends that everyone is already welcome to showcase their views in the capitol and she points out that there is another display next to hers with a message she disagrees with (there is a sign from the FFRF that proclaims that God doesn’t exist).
But in the spirit of inclusiveness she says, “…they have as much right to be there as we do. I think it’s time for all of us to realize there’s a lot of room for different voices.”
During “Interfaith Awareness Week” various groups showcase their religious traditions around the capitol’s rotunda. This, WISC-TV reports, is how Appling’s group received permission to display the nativity until the end of December.
Gaylor hasn’t provided more information on her planned display, but she is hoping to have it up soon.