Robert Knight
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As attorney William J. Becker, Jr., who was lead counsel in Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee v. City of Santa Monica, noted in a recent Washington Times column, although the displays will be constructed nearby on private property, “the First Amendment is not restricted to private property. Refusing to allow people to make their views known in a public park or other traditional public forum is a direct infringement on First Amendment rights.”

By deploying only the first half of the First Amendment’s guarantee that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the ACLU and other liberal groups are using the courts to redefine religious speech as second-class, fit only to be uttered on private property and behind closed church doors.

That’s why progressives have adopted the red herring phrase “freedom to worship” to replace “freedom of religion.” Nobody is threatening the freedom to worship, but religious freedom and religious speech are under assault daily somewhere in America.

And here’s another thing. The Santa Monica complainants based some of their case on the idea that displaying religious items on public property “offends” non-believers like them. The newly-coined right not to be offended seems to be picking up speed, except when it comes to offending Christians.

In Newhall, Calif., a property owner has actually ordered a senior citizen housing complex to take down a Christmas tree in a community room because it is a religious symbol.

"For some folks this is the only Christmas tree they'll have all season," The Willows resident Robert Troudeau told the Los Angeles Daily News. "There are people overseas fighting for our freedoms and dying and we're here fighting over things like this. It's a shame."

Years ago, a group in Orange County, California tried to stop a church from being built with a steeple that sported a cross at the top. Bear in mind that the church was being built on private property. The complainants’ argument was that the mere sight of the Christian symbol offended them. They lost, but think about their Orwellian reasoning: In the name of tolerance, the government should ban an outward sign of faith.

In a country in moral freefall, silence is freedom of speech, religious suppression is tolerance, and atheism is the de facto official religion of the state.

But be of good cheer. Even Orwellian progressives can’t put out all the Christmas lights or stop carols from being heard in the malls and department stores. America’s retail sector, which depends heavily on Christmas shopping to put it into the black every year, has too much to lose. And the clear words of the Constitution continue to be a bulwark against censorship-minded secularists.

We also have it on good authority that the real story of Christmas will never be erased from human consciousness.

In Mark 13:31, Jesus assures us that, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

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Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.