Is the Bethel Nativity Display Offensive or a Violation? – Letter to the Editor

Report by Paula Antolini, June 27, 2019, 2:09PM EDT

Bethel Nativity display in P.T. Barnum Square, November 24, 2018.
(Bethel Advocate file photo, ©2018 Bethel Advocate)


After decades of being accepted and allowed here in our Town of Bethel, the Christmas Display, (that stands in our Town Center), has become an issue with a small minority of atheists here in Bethel. This issue arose last year, 2018, during the normal Christmas Season, brought to light by James Naddeo, who is the de-facto leader of said atheists.

I would like to take some time to address this issue as a Bethel community member, exercising free speech to do so. I thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Having this Christmas Display is not a violation of the much-referenced “separation of Church & State”, mentioned only in the January 1802 letter from President Thomas Jefferson to a group known as The Danbury Baptists. This phrase is not found within our US Constitution, as demanded by the atheists, and is not an implied part of our First Amendment which guarantees the following: 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. (emphasis mine) 

Atheist groups would have you believe that the “free exercise thereof” does not matter. But it does. You cannot take the first line of our First Amendment and slice it apart to suit any agenda. You need to read The Constitution inclusively, and never in a pick-and-choose exclusivity. Our Constitution is not intended to be weaponized against US citizens. Instead, it serves as a safeguard against governmental tyranny.

I find it highly disingenuous that a small minority of Bethel atheists would rush to assault a harmless Christmas Display, under the false notion that it is the Town of Bethel seeking to oppress anyone, or force Christianity down anyone’s throat, while these same atheists take no issue with such issues as:

1. US Presidents swear upon The Bible for guidance and accountability to God Almighty when assuming the office of President

2. Courts of law in our Nation regularly require witnesses to swear upon The Bible to hold them accountable for their testimonies

3. Our own US Congress, when beginning their sessions, formally offer up a prayer to the Judeo-Christian God for wisdom in achieving proper governance

4. The Pledge of Allegiance, spoken even here in our Town Hall at the beginning of official business, declares that we are, indeed, “…one Nation, under God, indivisible..”, words added in 1954 against the threat of Communism

5. The very money we use to conduct commerce as Americans have the words, “In God We Trust”, printed upon it

6. US Presidents, upon closing speeches made to the American People, regularly end with, “God bless America”

7. At our very own Berry School, during their annual Holiday Concert, both Judaism and Islam are represented through song, but Christianity is prohibited and rejected

Again, this false and misunderstood atheist notion regarding the separation of Church & State is hardly true or verifiable. For any government to seek the face of God Almighty for wisdom and accountability is the best course of action for all involved. It is hardly a tyrannical oppression of freedom of religion as The People choose. It is hardly a tyrannical government forcing submission to a religion. It is, instead, a showing of a government humbling itself to the Creator of all things, to stay true, proper, accountable, and correctable. We should all be thankful for this, for it prevents any government from going off the rails.

A Christmas Display on Town-owned property is not a violation of any Constitutional principles. It is in full accord with our “free exercise thereof”. To believe otherwise is ignorant, foolish, and childish.

Atheism is a belief in no gods. It defines itself as not being a religion, but being a belief. Since atheism believes in no gods, why would they care if the majority of people in Bethel do believe in Christ Jesus? Why would there be atheists upon the very committee formed to determine the course of action regarding the Christmas Display? This seems to show that this committee is nothing more than a kangaroo court, assembled for one reason, which is to vilify Christ Jesus and His followers. Given that the majority of Bethel residents have no issue with said Christmas Display, it seems to show that a small minority is feigning indignance and offense as an act of petulant and childish offense, when there is none to be had at all. Since atheism is not defined as a religion, why should they feel entitled to be represented alongside a blatantly religious display, that being of Christ Jesus’ Birth?

Has anyone walked past this expected and accepted Christmas Display, made of plastic and cloth, and suddenly become physically injured? Has anyone walked by this Christmas Display and decided their lives have been a mistake and now they need Jesus as Savior? Has anyone walked past this Christmas Display and mysteriously become ill and vomited because of it? Has there been any public rioting, chaos, or property damage to our town due to this Christmas Display? Is this Christmas Display bringing an unhealthy attitude or mindset into our town? Are people purposely avoiding our downtown area because of this Christmas Display? Have the believers in this Christmas Display camped-out in front of it as an act of worship?

This issue is much ado about nothing. It reeks of an entitlement mentality that births only rotten fruit, and demands divisiveness and attention. There is no violation in any legal sense of this Christmas Display to take it’s decades-old spot in our Town Center, as a town tradition that is expected, anticipated, and celebrated, despite such actions not being accepted by a small atheist minority. The demands of the few never outweigh the desires of the many.

Atheists have all year to preach their beliefs, not just during Christmas Season, in the hopes of revealing their atheistic beliefs. There is no logical reason, other than a hatred of Jesus, for said atheists to demand equal playing time. And this is a shame, really, because this Jesus, whom they hate, loves them enough to have died for their sins, and open the way to The Father through Eternal Salvation.

Donald Borsch Jr.

Bethel, CT