Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter Dec. 1 calling for more displays of nativity scenes in government buildings and on public property.

“With this letter, I wish to encourage the beautiful family tradition of preparing the Nativity scene in the days before Christmas, but also the custom of setting it up in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares,” Francis wrote in the letter.

The pope’s call could lead to more church-state conflict in America. Federal courts have ruled that some government agencies may display nativity scenes only if they are part of a larger holiday array that also contains secular symbols.

In other cases, private groups have been allowed to display crèches on public space considered an open forum, as long as other religious and non-religious groups are given the same access.

On its “Wall of Separation” blog, Americans United urged caution.

“Remember, when religious leaders display their sacred symbols, encourage people to venerate them and prod individuals to become more religious, they are engaging in proselytism,” AU observed. “That’s all well and good when it’s undertaken by private groups. But such actions should never be part of the duties of government.”

 

BREAKING NEWS

Americans United & the National Women’s Law Center file suit to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans.

Abortion bans violate the separation of church and state. Americans United and the National Women’s Law Center—the leading experts in religious freedom and gender justice—have joined forces with thirteen clergy from six faith traditions to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans as unconstitutionally imposing one narrow religious doctrine on everyone.


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