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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions February 26, 2015

12/16/2012 10:23:00 PM
Editorial: Objection to ceremony is wrong

Yes, we did. We do it every year, and we'll do it again and again until they make us stop.

We're talking about the annual Courthouse Lighting ceremony in Prescott, an affair that this year drew an unprecedented crowd that spilled over onto Gurley Street, singing about joy and peace and, yes, about Christmas.

Not everyone around here is a Christian, a point often made clear in The Daily Courier's article comments. And at least one someone who attended our trademark seasonal celebration is also not so inclined, to the point that person alerted the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Wisconsin to inform that organization, which claims a membership of 19,000 nationwide, about our alleged violation of the separation of church and state.

There are a number of things wrong with the FFRA's contention that this ceremony should not take place. First of all, any religious organization can get a permit and use the courthouse property for celebration, indoctrination or proselytizing, just about any time they choose. Second, no one has to be there if they don't like it.

And third, and most important, it is not in any way illegal for the people of a town to celebrate on public property. The notion of separation of church and state is nothing more than the twisting of a concept that occurred to one of our nation's founders.

Thomas Jefferson first coined the term in an 1802 letter, in which he wrote that legislatures should, "'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State." Since then, his wall-building phrase has become clichéd to the point that many believe the latter part of the quote is indeed a part of the Constitution. (It is not.)

Since the late 1940s, proponents of the demise of organized religion have many times successfully argued their case in courts, chipping away at the force-feeding of religious dogma, most notably in public schools.

We agree that religion, any religion, should not be forced on anyone, especially not by the government. But we highly doubt that anyone who attended the courthouse lighting and listened to the songs and the stories was forced to be there, unlike children who are required to be in school.

So, yes, we did. And we'll do it again and again and again. Until someone makes us stop.

Related Stories:
• Letter: Christians' rights are under attack
• Atheist group denounces lighting ceremony

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012
Article comment by: Jesse Greenwald

Well, good job on completely missing the point, and lying about the facts as well. The FFRF is NOT claiming the celebration should not take place, nor is anyone I know of. The problem is having government officials using tax dollars to fund it. I love the courthouse lightings, and they're an amazing time, but I do not need to be hearing any religious speeches or songs while I'm there. For those who would tell me "well don't go if you don't want to hear it." Thanks for excluding anyone with any belief (or lack of). Shows just how much loving christian tolerance we're used to. The government is and always has been a purely secular entity, and public celebrations like this one need to stay the same. As the laws of the land say they should. Allow me to restate for those that may have missed it...NO ONE wants to have the lighting shut down, we just don't want it turned into a religious event. If you want a theocracy, you might try Saudi Arabia or Iran. See how that works out for you.

Posted: Saturday, December 22, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

@Jesus Went Through Tough Times Too: It wasn't atheists who killed Jesus. It was the biggest "believers" in the area. They thought he was a nonbeliever because he did not fit inside the mold of religion. Only later was he stuffed back into that mold by generations of followers.

@Really: I have to at least partially take Rev's side on the atheism as religion thing. We all have our world views and fundamental sets of assumptions about the world, and much of our perception is filtered through all this. You may not be an atheist proselytist, but there are many atheist crusaders in the world who are just as gung ho as the most rabid fundamentalists. I think that agnosticism is a lot closer to nonreligious than most cases of atheism. To declare with full certainty, "God doesn't exist" or that we're nothing more than a bunch of atoms clanking together randomly is to assert a belief that has never been proven. Just because someone hasn't proven something with the five senses and certain rules of inference, this does not lead to the logical conclusion that their claims are false. There is more to knowledge than five senses plus tying them together with logic. No person and no group is free of ego.

Posted: Saturday, December 22, 2012
Article comment by: Stealth Bummer

Time to pass this one on to Bill O'Reilly!!!

Posted: Saturday, December 22, 2012
Article comment by: Ha Ha

It just hit me. Many of the people writing in to praise the religion in the public square were not long ago protesting "religious symbols" on a little bench being constructed in a public park. Let's have more tolerance from everyone.

Posted: Saturday, December 22, 2012
Article comment by: Really .

@ The Rev:
But you seem to paint the atheist as possessing a 'status' or an outward philosophy. Such a narrow view you take on your opponent. Some do, others do not.

I have met Dr. Dawkins. There are many things he says I agree with, but don't pigeonhole me as a 'true believer.' He is more of a gnostic atheist that sometimes takes more anti-theist stances where I am an apatheist. I say man can do whatever he likes. I don't wish to be a 'member' of a likeminded group waxing philosophic about philosophies I believe were questionable from the beginning. It seems a monumental waste of time, much like trying to herd cats.

I simply think that in 2012 (almost 2013), any religious dominionism is unacceptable. It leads to far worse things that can ultimately impact individual freedoms. I feel I must sometimes push back when I start to feel the suffocation by said dominionism. Some religious cry persecution at this action, but It doesn't compute. The majority doesn't suffer persecution - at best, you might call it a rebellion.

I'm not out to silence anyone either. But when the rights of the majority seems to want to constantly supercede my own right to pursue happiness, it's called discrimination, and in 2012 (almost 2013) it's not how civilizations should operate.

That said, Merry Christmas.

Posted: Saturday, December 22, 2012
Article comment by: As is Usual It Is Mr. Hoo, Who Has No Clue

The $30,000 tax dollars that the COP placed into the pot, the donation, in kind, Yavapai County placed into the production providing free venue and utilities both tax supported entities put on the secular court house lighting, and the non-secular, Christian church like, Jesus Birth Pageant! Both of these tax supported entities clearly helped put on the whole, entire shindig.

The latter (non-secular) portion is not a proper use of tax money according to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United State's Constitution.

Even though Ken Bennett did not get paid to do his part it was not Ken Bennett that did so. He was, as introduced…. "Secretary of State, Ken Bennett" which placed the State of Arizona officially into the Christ Child Pageant, and thus supporting, establishing one particular religion above all others. As usual, it is you, Mr Hoo, "WHO DON'T HAVE A CLUE!" (loud, annoying, screaming is Mr. Hoo's, not the author of this submission)

Posted: Friday, December 21, 2012
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

No, none of your tax dollars paid for Ken Bennett to read the scripture. They did pay for the pretty lights that even the atheists love, which aren't part of the scripture reading. So whoever you are that somehow claim the constitution is violated cram it and go the heck away. YOU DON'T HAVE A CLUE

Posted: Friday, December 21, 2012
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: Why Christians Spread the Good News

And you actually believe that stuff?

Which of the two creation myths in Genesis is correct.

Which of the two different dates for Jesus crucifixion and resurrection is true?

There are too many contradictions in the Bible for it to ba an accurate account.

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2012
Article comment by: Grateful Citizen

No one is stopping Jews, Muslims, Native Americans, Hindus, Buddhists, or any other religion from celebrating their holidays on the courthouse. I would love to see other peoples' cultures so by all means everyone come together and let's celebrate together. It's not about a particular religion it's about family and being together, coming together as a community. Christmas just happens to be a widely celebrated holiday but by all means bring a Menorah or a flag or any symbol to celebrate what you believe in bring your friends and family. Even if you don't have a belief come and enjoy everyone being happy and being together, nothing is more wonderful than seeing your friends and family and your community coming together, not to fight but to enjoy each other's company. Instead of breaking up a community because of religion lets bring all of the people of every religion, or even no religion, together to celebrate that we have the freedom to do so, while we still have that freedom.

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2012
Article comment by: Stay Home While My Taxes are Utilized Not Acceptable

So the Irreligionists, agnostics, ignostics, non-theists, atheists, secular humanists, theological noncognitivists, religious skeptics, freethinkers... who, by the way, compose a rapidly growing group (~20%) who place an X in the No Religion box and all other of the non-Christian religions, who diligently pay their taxes to the city, county and state, should just STAY HOME? Stay home while THEIR taxes are being spent establishing the Christian religion on THEIR courthouse steps? What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong with it is that it totally goes against the Establishment Clause found in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution, that is what is wrong with it!
Hopefully next year the advising lawyers of the COP, County and State will put the nix on the religious part of the lighting and spend all the tax money on lights and jingle bells! The Christ child birthing pageant can be seen in every Christian church in town multiple times, just as it should be, even though my taxes are being used for these as well, (churches and all their property are tax exempt therefore my taxes are higher as a result).
Dear Courier Editor… Please don't tell me to stay home when MY taxes are being used.

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2012
Article comment by: The Rev

"Why should we secede ground..." Started with cede, morphed to a disbelief that in escaping this enlightened New Union's just laws must we secede(?). Sometimes my rationale, rational or otherwise, translates poorly and though I am prone to missteps in this case it also made good bait for prompting intelligent pettiness in an opponent. No one really likes the too smart kid though they do make interesting bosses.

We disagree on the Atheist's status or at least some Atheists' status. Declaring any preference is a philosophy, in my opinion. Organization of the people is a society. Organization based on work is a guild. Organization based on philosophy is a religion. A warning: Read too much Dawkins dogma subscribe to an organized 503c religion that in the name of equality wants to rob how a majority wish to at least partially celebrate a Holiday. And some would call the Westboro people nutters.

Odd you would paint me as I would paint you. My loyalty is not just to this Season but in keeping voices from being wrongly silenced. 'Let us regulate religious people to their private dark corners lest they infected our society with irrationalism.' That does not ring rational to me @Really .

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2012
Article comment by: a bc

@a bc is very Pathetic & Free Thinker Might Need Something To Do -
My point was that it doesn't take an advanced age to have wisdom or be a deep or compelling thinker. People jumped on Free Thinkers age as if that were some gauge of his ability to think wisely. I wasn't comparing his ideas or actions to those famous people I mentioned. My comment was directed at the fallacy of assuming one's age makes a difference in such matters. None of us know what his life experiences have been, what his education is, etc. Better to comment on a person's remarks than make judgments based on their age. Does this sound reasonable?

@Free Thinker - You'll never convince them, but you'll outlive most of them. -)

@Really. - Exactly.

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: Really .

@ The Rev:
My goodness, you and the others need to relax. Try not to allow your irrational hate to consume you so much. It will use you up quickly.

The young free thinker is just as passionate about his/her views as you are. I was there at one time myself many years ago. As I've grown older, I've become more particular about where my passion takes me and picking my battles.

Your claims of 'seceding ground' (whatever that means) seem to be simply constructs of your own mind, and it's rather difficult to debate that objectively. Here's why: Calling atheism a 'belief structure' is akin to not collecting stamps being a hobby, or bald being a hair color. There's no validity to the assertion. It makes no rational sense, so it's perplexing that you believe your insistence on repeating it magically lends credence to your arguments. Here's a hint: It doesn't.

Atheism is a default position without unknown variables. That's it. I am not required to 'convince' or 'convert' anyone. The real difference is that religion attempts to inject an unknown within the realm of said default position. Thus, it is up to the religious individual to provide the burden of proof for the unknown variable.

What is usually offered is merely the religious individual's own anecdotal testimony and a holy book as proof. If it is rejected, the religious individual feels rebuked, persecuted and sometimes lashes out. None of this is particularly new information. The same scenario usually plays out with any other assertions of unknown variables in the scientific community and even courts of law.

You are angry because you and your ilk feel your faith gives you 'ownership' over the holiday season, and anything that might take even the most minute of attention away from that is seen as an 'attack.' It is an irrational overreaction to a fairly benign inquiry. Thus you and your religion are the ones waging this imaginary 'war.'

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: Steven Ayres

The idiotic debate over whether religion is a worthwhile endeavor is completely beside the point. The issue, well established in law whether you happen to like it or not, is whether public resources, which belong to all of us equally, are being used to favor a religious ideology. The editor claims that there is no legal issue, and as far as I know there is none. But it behooves the editor to go beyond stating an emotional position and show proof that the organizations involved are using only their own resources, in print. This is not difficult, and it seems to me he ought to be delighted to do it. How about it, Tim? Hasn't this gone on long enough?

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: Rod Williams

Imagine your ancestors living in the cold frigid north hundreds or thousands of years ago, not knowing planetary motion, no road maps, weather service, showers or fresh food other than killing a furry beast, eating and wearing its skin to try and stay warm.

Then a mathematician comes around and explains that it's the season when the days will grow longer and warmer and food will spring forth from the earth. Would you rather celebrate that very day or season or would you rather celebrate a loving father having his half breed son tortured to death in a very painful way? I know which way the lost will celebrate, how about you?

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: The Rev

"...thankful for the path i've chosen against Christianity, because you are miserable people..."

Why should we secede ground Free Thinker and Organized Atheists? You desire destruction of these miserable savages who will not conform to your belief structure. The choice YOU present is clear: Be Saved or Die. It is understandable that they and I would press back as history of conversion strategies are lost on none. Perhaps your Logical Crusade is above such perils brave paladins? I do not critically think so.

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: Markam Worlsbey

All the angry, confused liberals here combined could not come up with one shred of proof that there is anything in our U.S. Constitution that prohibits the Prescott courthouse lighting ceremony. Regardless of what elected officials attend, what property the event happens, who spends the money to put on the event...NONE of that violates ANY part of the U.S. Constitution. The liberals just lie and make fools of themselves because they actually have very little else to do with their sad existence.

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: Free Thinker

To Pathetic and Need Something To Do: I'd like to respond with a "haha". I am destroying the world by knowing science, and reality? Look at the hate YOU two are spreading, and I am the bad one? I am the "evil little thing" in this discussion? Look at you two, adults, calling people pathetic, ignorant, judging people you don't even know. I'm supposed to believe YOU are the ones that know reality? I should believe you? Give me a break. It's people like you that make me thankful for the path i've chosen against Christianity, because you are miserable people, and I have to share my hometown with you. THAT is what makes me sad. Christians are SO judgemental towards myself and others that do not believe in fairytales. You aren't who I want to be.

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: Jesus Went Through Tough Times Too

Our Lord, when walking on this earth, went through tougher times when confronted with non-believers. This will always be, but to "mock" those who await his return is sacreligious and disgusting. Believing or not, but no one is forcing you to be a part of the celebration of his birth nor the crucifixion at Easter.

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: a bc is very Pathetic

@a bc I find your reply to the Free Thinker very ignorant and stupid. Maybe the two of you should get together.

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: Free Thinker Might Need Something To Do

@a bc-comparing this youth to Jesus @33, Einstein, Mozart, Napoleon (?) seems pretty dumb since they all contributed great things to this world, except for Napoleon, of course. Maybe this is what this young youth needs,something constructive to say and do. Think so? Seems you might want to compare him to others in the past who also destroyed this world.

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: Tax Dollars Not For Establishing Mythology

The neat thing about being an atheist is that all you have to do is be aware of the real world and say "golly, I see no evidence whatsoever of floating, magical, superhuman, deities-beings of any kind, who totally control the entire universe, speak to us, and do supernatural things!". That said, atheism is very hard work! Not only do atheists have to keep their eye out for any scientific, legal or empirical evidence of the local Christian god, but also ALL these, just as valid to their believers, gods as well: Allah, Apollo, Bacchus, Beeline, Ceres, Cupid, Diana, Faunus, Flora, Janus, Juno, Maia, Mars, Mercury, Minerva, Mithras, Neptune, Ops, Pales, Pluto, Pomona, Proserpine, Saturn, Venus, Vertumnus, Vesta, Vulcan, Aesir, Andhrimner, Angrboda, Astrid, Alta, Audhumla, Balder, Beyla, Borghild, Gragi, Brono, Bylgil, Dagger, Disen, Eir, Elli, Fenrir, Forseti, Freya, Freyr, Frigg, Gefion, Gerd, Heimdall, Hel, Herlmod, Hod, Holler, Idun, Jord, Jormungand, Kari, Dvasir, Laga, Lofn, Loki, Magni, Mani, Miming, Mimir, Modi, Njord, Norns, Nott, Odin, Ran, Saga, Sgleipner, Sol, Syn, Thor, Tyr, Ull, Vali, Valkyries, Vanir, Var, Vidar, Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athenia, Demeter, Dioysus, Hades, Helios, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Hestia, Persephone, Poseidon, Selene, Zeus, Airmid, Artio, Balor, Branwen, Camalus, Cerunnos, Cyhiraeth, Druantia, Giobhniu, Lugh, Llyr, Maeve, Manannan, Margawse, Mebd, Mider, Morrigan, Nemain, Aine, Angus Og... Oops, I am rapidly approaching my 300 word limit and I have only listed the Islam, Norse, the Roman, the Greek and a part of the Celtic god list. Egad, I still have the Japanese, Hawaiian, Polynesian, Irish, Welsh, Slavic, Chinese and all of the Native North and South American and Native African (~2870 in all) Gods and Goddesses!* My Christian friends do not believe in and totally reject 2869 of these gods. I am just like my friends the Christians except, I reject one more than they do! I see no evidence for the entire 2970 long list of gods! Like I say it is not easy being an atheist! Not one of the above gods (including the Christian god) has the slightest scientific, legal or empirical evidence of being real, they are ALL (2970) mythological.
As a critical thinker, why should I accept myth as fact? Why should my tax dollar support the inculcation of one particular set of religious myths over all the others? Why any myths at all? I greatly enjoy the pretty lights, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells ETC. However I believe the, tax supported, Christ Baby Birth Pageant on our County Courthouse Plaza is unconstitutional and violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United State's Constitution.


Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: Art & Sandie Valles

I read with interest the objections by atheists for having the courthouse lighting with the Navtivity story. My wife and I attend the lighting every year, but this time, Secretary Bennetts Nativity story was extra special for us and everyone else in attendance. As we stood listening to it, we heard a gentleman behind us who was from Wisconsin comment on how much he enjoyed it and made it a point to his friends that next time, he would bring his grandchildren to Prescott to witness the lighting and hear the Christmas story. He further said that something like this would not happen in Wisconsin and liked the fact that we're doing it here. We are sick and tired that a few non-Christians push their non-believing agenda on others just because they want a separation of church and state. That may be well and good for them, but this is Christmas and we all need to remember that it's just not Santa Claus, gifts and toys. This is the day of the birth of Jesus, who is the greatest gift of all. Let these atheists celebrate their own holiday if they want, but don't infringe on ours. How hypocritical for some of them who don't want prayers in schools, Nativity scenes in public places, calling Christmas trees "Holiday trees", wishing everyone a Merry Winter Solstice and the like, yet when something like the Newtown, CT shootings occur, they all want to pray and call on God for healing. I'm glad we live in Prescott and hope and pray that everyone here agrees with the message that Almighty God has given us. MERRY CHRISTMAS to all!!

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: The Rev

Is that $30K over a whole duration of the light display or just on the Christian-ish Christmas kick off bits?

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Article comment by: Who Paid For the Courthouse Lighting and Christian Jesus Birth Pageant

Answer: Yes... the largest single contributor to the lighting of the Yavapai County Courthouse is... The City Of Prescott!!! The COP coughs up $30,000 in citizen tax funds to enable the lighting ceremony (Christian Jesus Birth Pageant) to take place! It is clearly a Constitutional, First Amendment Establishment Issue! The government is establishing the Christian religion over all others as a result of this pageant. Hopefully their lawyers will set them straight on this issue in the future.

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