Earlier this month, TheBlaze reported that, following a complaint from the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF), an atheist activist group, the U.S. Navy cancelled an annual live nativity tradition on a Bahrain base. But now, just days after furor surrounded the decision, Military.com is reporting that the event is back on and rescheduled for Christmas eve.
Initially, the MAAF claimed that the presence of a nativity scene in a majority-Muslim country was dangerous to servicemen. Additionally, the group alleged that the military was violating the U.S. Constitution by allowing the event to unfold. As previously noted, the nativity, which was slated to unfold at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain, is a tradition that has been going on for the past few years.
“It’s unconstitutional, it’s bad for the military and in a Muslim country it’s dangerous,” Jason Torpy, a spokesperson for MAAF, said in an interview with Fox News earlier this month.
When the controversy first emerged following the MAAF complaint, the Navy purportedly sent the atheist group the following statement:
“Upon further review, the CRP (Command Religious Program) will be removing the Living Nativity Program from the general base secular holiday festivities and co-locating it more appropriately with some of our other private religious and faith-based observances at the chapel at a separate time.”
The Navy, bowing to demands that the nativity be removed from general base holiday celebrations, has made good on its promise and rescheduled the display inside of the chapel.
A before (left) and after (right) of the fliers advertising the Christmas celebration (Photo Credit: ChristianFighterPilot.com)
"The Nativity scene being held on...Dec. 24 will be very similar to the originally scheduled program," base spokeswoman Jennifer Stride said, declining to explain the initial reasoning for the event's initial cancellation.
The MAAF is accusing conservative media outlets of distorting the original story and claiming that the group never wanted the event cancelled; instead, the atheist organization explained that it pushed for the procession to be cut out of the base's general holiday celebration.
Regardless of how the issue is framed, the initial plans were cancelled and the event was moved to a more private locality due to the secularist complaint. Here's how the MAAF has responded to the controversy on its web site:
This is the win-win outcome requested by MAAF and originally reported in this article. The prevailing right wing narrative, “Navy Cancels Nativity over Atheist Complaint” was misleading at best when posted and is now proven to be factually incorrect. [...]
The way the right-wing media tells it, we secularists literally raise Hell every time we hear the word Christmas. Not so. Christmas is a federal holiday because of its broad appeal and secular celebration of American values like family and charity. Many non-Christians enjoy Christmas carols, presents, decorations, and the general holiday cheer. Some even enjoy religious Christmas celebrations so long as they are outside the context of official government endorsement and mandatory military events.
So, there you have it. The official base celebration involves lighting a "holiday tree." The Christmas nativity tradition -- the main cause for the celebratory season -- has been cut out of this portion of the base's observance and has been moved to the chapel and away from the communal space.