Sunday, November 18, 2012

Case in point: a "historical" display

In my last post, I talked about how difficult it was to differentiate a truly "historical" monument from the argument, "We've been doing it this way for years! Waaaah!" Fox News illustrates by bashing atheists for asking that there not be a "14-scene Christian diorama" set up by churches in a public park-- something that seems pretty egregiously unconstitutional to me, but which is being defended for this reason: "It's a sad, sad commentary on the attitudes of the day that a nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition is now having to hunt for a home, something like our savior had to hunt for a place to be born because the world was not interested."

Uh-huh. That's sad. Very sad. Why don't the churches involved simply use their own land? No one is saying they can't. Of course they can. So what's the big deal? Presumably because it's a "60-year-old tradition," atheists just need to sit down and shut up. Who cares if it's constitutional? It's tradition!

This particular debate has been covered extensively on Friendly Atheist. Basically what it seems to boil down to is that the city tried to do the right thing by offering a lottery. Atheists won most of the slots, and used their spaces to put up (what I personally think were obnoxiously in-your-face) anti-religious displays. Most of the displays were vandalized, and an uproar ensued. The city has tried to avoid the entire issue, quite sensibly, by stopping this tradition-- which, not incidentally, has earned Santa Monica the title "the City of the Christmas Story."

The article goes on to say, "The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee argues in its lawsuit that atheists have the right to protest, but that freedom doesn't trump the Christians' right to free speech." Perhaps, but if the city has to go back to allowing nativity scenes, I hope they'll also be compelled to put up other displays-- and that atheists will try a little harder to produce more serious and less antagonistic displays.

It's worth noting, however, that Fox News engages in rather typical wild-eyed rhetoric by suggesting atheists are "push(ing) Christmas out of the city of Santa Monica" in the first paragraph, as if when the city decided not to allow these religious displays in a public park, they had banned Christmas entirely. Look out, citizens of Santa Monica! Those wicked atheists will be coming for your Christmas trees and your wreaths next!

ETA: When Friendly Atheist picked this up, he linked to the very same story in the Washington Post. It's an AP story, so any slant can't be blamed on Fox News. It's sad when I can't tell AP reporting from Fox News reporting.

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