No Room for Christ in Bethlehem

Phil Jensen


Merry_ChristmasBETHLEHEM, N.Y.Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Thursday to the town of Bethlehem after it removed a “Merry Christmas” sign from town property based on unfounded fears that it violates the U.S. Constitution. The letter explains that allowing the sign does not violate the Constitution or any other law.

“No one should fear that saying ‘Merry Christmas’ on a sign like this will violate the Constitution. It does not,” said ADF Legal Counsel Joseph La Rue. “The courts, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, have been clear that the government can erect Christmas signs and displays, including even Nativity scenes, without having to fear a constitutional violation.”

Some time ago, the town allowed a local Jewish group to place a Menorah and a sign lettered with the words “Happy Hanukkah” as a temporary display on town property known as “the Four Corners.” Subsequently, a local citizen purchased a sign lettered with the words “Merry Christmas,” which the town placed on a tree, near the Hanukkah display. This year, the same citizen requested that the “Merry Christmas” sign again be placed in the display, but, after consulting with the town attorney, Bethlehem decided that the sign could not be placed on town property because of concerns about potentially violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Rick Kriebel 2016


As the ADF letter explains, “Just like the Establishment Clause allows the President to issue proclamations expressing Christmas greetings, and also allows Congress to proclaim Christmas to be a national public holiday…, the Establishment Clause allows the Town of Bethlehem to have a ‘Merry Christmas’ sign, as part of a holiday display, for the secular purpose of acknowledging the celebration of Christmas. Simply put, if it is constitutional for the Town to display a crèche (a Nativity scene displaying Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus in the Manger) – and it is – there can be no serious dispute over whether it is constitutional for the Town to display a sign saying ‘Merry Christmas.’”

“The irony is not lost on us that your Town’s name is Bethlehem,” the ADF letter continues. “Christians believe that, in the Bethlehem of old, there was no room in the inn for the Christ Child. We hope that Bethlehem, New York, will make room for a sign to wish those who drive by the Four Corners a ‘Merry Christmas’ in recognition of the importance of this holiday to many of Bethlehem’s people.”

“We sincerely hope the town will both consider what the law and the courts actually say about government acknowledgements of Christmas,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Governments can reasonably decide to celebrate Christmas with Christmas-related displays without running afoul of the Constitution.”

Woodrow Wilcox


Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.



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