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Air Force base refuses to remove nativity scene

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
NEW YORK (BP) -- Travis Air Force Base in California has decided it will not remove or relocate a nativity scene and a Menorah in spite of a threat from The Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

"While we appreciate the concerns raised by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Office of the Air Force Judge Advocate General, upon review, concluded the inclusion of a Wing Chaplain sponsored nativity scene and Menorah as part of a broader, secular holiday seasonal display does not violate the establishment clause of the United States Constitution," read a statement provided to Fox News & Commentary.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) had threatened to sue Travis Air Force Base unless the base removed or relocated the Christmas display currently located on a major thoroughfare at the military installation.

"This conspicuous display of ritual objects is a clear endorsement of religion in violation of the Establishment clause of the First Amendment, and must either be removed from the premises or moved to a more appropriate location on the Air Force Base to ensure compliance with the United States Constitution," wrote attorney Katherine Ritchey on behalf of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

The nativity features figures representing the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Adjacent to the nativity is the Menorah.


"There is no doubt that a reasonable person, upon viewing these two religious symbols, would believe that they convey anything but a religious message," Ritchey wrote.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation accused the Air Force of endorsing "rituals and beliefs associated with that faith."

The MRFF said it received a letter from an anonymous airman complaining about the holiday decorations and what he called the "tyranny of the majority."

"The presence of these clearly religious displays on the main corner of the base deeply concerns me. I am not alone in my feelings of distress," the anonymous airman wrote. "I know many other people are similarly offended and confused."

"I joined the military to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to spread the gospel," the airman added. "I fear that the religious symbols so prominently displayed on my Air Force Base convey a different message."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, criticized the threat and called it "yet another flyby-attack on Christianity."

"No one is forced to stand in front of the Nativity, and salute it, but people in this country should have the right to celebrate Christmas and what it means," Perkins told Fox News & Commentary last week.


Perkins cited a Gallup poll that suggested more than 95 percent of the nation celebrates Christmas -- and a Pew Research poll that indicated 78 percent of Americans self-identify as Christian.

"Increasingly, people are saying it is time to stop the bombardment of our religious freedom by this zealous minority," Perkins said.

Todd Starnes is the host of Fox News & Commentary, heard daily on Fox News Radio stations around the nation. He is the author of "They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick" and the upcoming "Dispatches From Bitter America." This article first appeared at Used by permission.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press


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