Nativity and atheist sign vie for visibility at the Illinois Capitol

Meredith Flynn —  December 3, 2013
The 2012 nativity scene at the Illinois Capitol.

The 2012 nativity scene at the Illinois Capitol.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The nativity scene in the Illinois Capitol’s rotunda will be unveiled today, likely near a “winter solstice” sign placed there over the weekend by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

The sign reads: “At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta said “viewpoint equality” is the key issue in the dueling displays. “If Christian groups are allowed to put displays up in the Capitol building, then atheist groups can as well…” he wrote about the sign.

The nativity scene, now in its sixth year, is privately funded and organized by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee. Thomas More Society, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty matters, calls the scene “classic free speech” in a release on its website.

“The SNSC’s primary goal is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  But its secondary mission is to proclaim and demonstrate to the public and to the media alike (statewide and nationwide) that such private expressions of religious belief in the public squares of our nation are not merely tolerated but fully deserving of robust legal protection.”

Read more at thomasmoresociety.org and christianpost.com.

Other news:

Tornado relief efforts continue
Disaster Relief chainsaw teams currently are serving in Washington, Ill., and surrounding areas, but are expected to complete their work by the end of this week, said Illinois Disaster Relief coordinator Rex Alexander. Since the outbreak of tornadoes Nov. 17, volunteers have helped with clean-up, provided childcare, and met emotional and spiritual needs as chaplains. A feeding team served for nearly two weeks in Peoria, preparing meals for storm responders and victims. Click here to donate to Illinois Disaster Relief.

Supreme Court to consider Hobby Lobby case
Baptist Press reports the U.S. Supreme Court will consider next year whether business owners can exercise religious freedom by objecting to the abortion/contraceptive mandate in President Obama’s healthcare reform package. The mandate requires employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health care plans.

Craft retailer Hobby Lobby and its sister corporation Mardel found favor in an appeals court, but Mennonite-owned Pennsylvania business Conestoga Wood Specialties was ruled against in a similar case. The Supreme Court consolidated the cases and will hear oral arguments next year, with a decision expected by he court’s summer adjournment, according to Baptist Press.

“This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution,” Hobby Lobby founder David Green said in a written release. “Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”

Read the full story at BPNews.net.

Americans weigh in on end-of-life issues
A new poll by Pew Research found 66% of Americans say there are circumstances where a patient should be allowed to die, but a growing number of people believe medical staff should do everything possible to save the life of a patient in all circumstances.

Religious beliefs play a role in what people think about the issues, Pew found. 42% of white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants say a person has a moral right to suicide if he or she is in a great deal of pain with no hope of improvement, compared to 62% of all adults surveyed.

Read more about the survey at PewForum.org, and check out Religion News Service’s analysis by Cathy Lynn Grossman here.

Week of Prayer for International Missions is Dec. 1-8Go to IMB.org for daily prayer guides, missionary stories, and creative ways to mark the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in your church.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.