Liberty Counsel Launches Second Annual "Friend or Foe"

Nov 22, 2004

Orlando, FL - Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, recently announced that Liberty Counsel launched its second, annual nationwide campaign to prevent blatant religious discrimination during the holidays. Liberty Counsel will bring lawsuits against any governmental agency that discriminates against the public displays of religious symbols or songs and has also announced that it will defend any governmental entity which abides by the Constitution and allows the equal expression of religious views. In essence, this campaign seeks to be a "Friend" to those entities which allow for the constitutionally protected right of expression but will also be a "Foe" to those organizations who attempt to suppress said liberties.

During the holiday season, Liberty Counsel sees an influx of calls and questions regarding religious displays. For instance, last year in Wisconsin, a public school told students to change "religious" words in the Christmas carols they were to sing during a Christmas concert. They were prohibited from using words that refer to "Jesus" or "God"; they had to substitute the "religious" words with "secular" ones. Last year, a public school in Georgia instructed its employees that they were not allowed to conduct any Christmas-related activities. The employees were not to read Christmas books, make Christmas decorations, or use red and white candy canes because of the religious story behind the origin of the candy cane. Some were even told they may not wear Christmas-related attire.

Staver noted that publicly sponsored nativity scenes on public property are constitutional so long as there is a secular symbol of the holiday as part of the display. In other words, the government may publicly display Mary, Joseph and Jesus so long as part of the display includes a secular symbol of the holiday, such as Santa Claus. Students in public schools may sing Christian Christmas carols, such as "Silent Night, Holy Night", so long as they also sing secular songs, like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Privately sponsored nativity scenes erected and displayed by private citizens or groups in a public area are constitutional and do not require a secular symbol as part of the display. Moreover, individual students may sing Christian Christmas carols as part of an overall presentation if secular carols are also sung. Staver also noted that schools may not prohibit access to religious books, because to do so discriminates against the religious viewpoint of the message contained in the book. Public employers may not discriminate against staff by prohibiting Christmas celebration.

Staver noted, "We are resolved to stop the Grinch from stealing Christmas. Liberty Counsel will be a friend to those who try to exercise their constitutional liberties and a foe to those who attempt to oppress those liberties. This nation was founded by people who sought to freely exercise their religious liberties. We have no intention of letting these liberties fall by the wayside or be chilled every holiday season by uninformed or hostile government officials."

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