St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, is making his entrance on Broadway in New York City on Thanksgiving Day. Across the country, outdoor Christmas creches are being dusted off and set up. This Sunday, the Advent season begins, a liturgical run-up to Christmas. But in Mexico, Kanan Human Rights, a radical anti-capitalist, left-wing NGO, has gone to court to declare war on Christmas.
Mexico’s top judicial body, the First Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, is scheduled to vote soon to allow prohibiting “signs that allude to a specific religious conviction” on public property. So Christmas creches and images and Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Jude could be banned. This would put Mexico to the left of super secular New York City, where the Parks Department has traditionally allowed some public spaces for seasonal symbols of various faiths. The Mexican court postponed its ruling in the face of public outcry. Perhaps waiting until AFTER Christmas to lower the gavel on the baby Jesus. (Yes, Virginia, there was a Jesus.)
One public response to this war on Christmas is a contest. According to the Spanish language news service ACI Prensa, #SíALosNacimientos (Yes to Nativity Scenes) calls on participants to “place Nativity scenes on public property and send photographs to our social media. The material will be received from November 27, the First Sunday of Advent, to December 11, the Third Sunday of Advent.”
It also calls for “an essay of between 2,000 and 4,000 words arguing why Nativity scenes and religious symbols have a place on public property.” Father Pablo Patrito, who is running the campaign, asks, “Do we want a desacralized culture with an atheist and secular state religion?” Can Christ be banned from the public square?
He argues that promoting religious expression promotes the common good and “the State is there to guarantee the common good…everything that the manger means promotes the good of society; it cannot be limited.”
Since the Wars of Revolution beginning in 1910, Mexico has fluctuated between religious persecution and religious tolerance. The John Ford, Henry Fonda film The Fugitive and the Andy Garcia film For Greater Glory portrayed some of the more dramatic aspects of that struggle.
This new skirmish in Mexico is now part of the greater North American War on Christmas. The question is, should the public square only be open to those with a philosophy, an ideology, or some other social or political construct? Does the public good demand, and do basic human rights allow, a traditional cultural expression that includes a religious element in public spaces? In other words, is banning one point of view “neutral” simply because that point of view happens to be religious?
In Fr. Patrito’s view, it “is a natural right of the human person to be able to freely express his religion…when it doesn’t attack others and even less so when it means benefiting others.”
Yes, even the Scrooges of this world benefit from Christmas. Perhaps it is time to declare a truce in the War on Christmas, a time for people to live and let live. Maybe the Ghost of NGOs Yet to Come will visit those judges on Christmas morning and show them the dreary Stalinist architecture of the sad world they are being asked to create.