Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared regularly in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds BS and MS degrees and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside in Connecticut.
Not many Christmas gifts arrive a year early, but the Thomas More Society and American Nativity Scene Committee are offering a free crèche to those folks who would like to display a privately sponsored and funded Christmas Nativity scene in a designated or traditional public forum, either inside or close to their state capitol or city hall next Christmas — December 2014.
The generous society is taking applications for the free Nativity displays between now and this Christmas, Dec. 25, 2013.
And there is a bonus gift attached for the first 50 crèche displays approved.
The Thomas More Society will give the first 50 approved applicants no-cost assistance in the legal permit process.
Based in Chicago, the Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit public interest law firm “that has facilitated the display of religious holiday tableaux throughout the country,” according to a spokesperson.
Another Chicago-based group, the American Nativity Scene Committee (ANSC), was formed to "Keep Christ in Christmas" and to remind everyone of the "Reason for the Season.”
Working with individuals and other groups, it does this by making available statues of Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and an angel for free.
The sponsor of the Nativity scene on public property has to do his part by providing or building the wooden manger for the scene itself.
The committee’s website describes how “privately funded displays on government-owned public forums, such as a public park, are legal, and the Thomas More Society can provide guidance on this right, as it is protected under the First Amendment. Such displays are not considered a violation of the separation between church and state because they are not funded with any public money.”
To Keep Christ in Christmas, the ANSC states that its purpose is “to provide the strongest answer possible to these attacks on religious freedom and Christmas: that being a beautiful Nativity scene in as many public squares as possible.”
The legal precedence goes back to 1987, when the right to display a privately owned and sponsored Nativity scene on public property was decided in federal court in Chicago.
The Thomas More Society and the American Nativity Scene Committee have been partnering with local groups throughout the United States to defend against unconstitutional bans on Christian Christmas displays.
“These privately sponsored and funded religious displays in traditional or designated public forums are constitutionally protected,” explained attorney Tom Brejcha in a prepared statement. He is president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society. “It is the First Amendment right of private citizens to proclaim in the public square the joyful message signaled by Jesus Christ’s birth.”
Jim Finnegan, the ANSC co-chairman, added, “We just recognize the true meaning of Christmas as a commemoration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The groups want to make these public displays a reality in all 50 states.
Apply between now Christmas at the American Nativity Scene Committee website, here, to publicly help ensure Christ is in Christmas.