New Record — More Than Half of State Capitols Feature Nativity Scenes

Record number of Nativity displays keep Christ-centered Christmas at public government venues this Christmas thanks to the efforts of the Thomas More Society and American Nativity Scene.

The Nativity scene in Minnesota
The Nativity scene in Minnesota (photo: Courtesy of TC Public Relations )

A new record of Nativities displayed on government venues was set this week thanks to the Thomas More Society and American Nativity Scene’s efforts to provide free displays for these public venues.

The Christ Child, Mary and Joseph are there in these crèches to remind everyone that the Christmas season is really about celebrating the Savior’s birth. Jesus is central to Christmas through these Nativities because Christmas is a Christian holiday.

“This is a landmark year as we have crossed the half-way mark. More than 50 percent of our nation’s state capitols will feature Christ — the very reason for Christmas. It is an exciting opportunity to share our Christmas message with the public, as the Constitution allows us to do,” Thomas Olp, vice president and senior counsel at the Thomas More Society said in a released statement.

Throughout December these Christmas crèches, all privately funded, have occupied conspicuous places on state property with the approval of 27 state governments.

Ed O’Malley, the president of the American Nativity Scene, observed in the joint statement this year’s increase in displays was quite dramatic.

“We welcomed six new state capitol Nativity scenes this Christmas, with manger displays debuting in Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina,” O’Malley noted. “That’s the largest number we’ve added in any year since we launched this initiative in 2012.”

“By leveraging this beloved holiday,” he added, “we provide an invitation to everyone to seek peace on earth and goodwill to all.”

In one of the new states this year, Rick Jones, coordinator of the Ohio Nativity Scene at the Ohio Statehouse, said, ““We are excited to share our Christmas message with the public, as the Constitution allows us to do. More than just an opportunity to share our faith, it is a chance to invite everyone to seek peace on earth and goodwill to all.” This Nativity will be on display through Jan. 2.

O’Malley noted that each state capitol display celebrates the manger scene in a unique way. At the same time, most incorporate celebrations that include Christmas carols and prayers, and also public figures speaking on the occasion.

The national not-for-profit law firm Thomas More Society and the American Nativity Scene celebrate this banner year after teaming up a few years ago to keep privately funded manger scenes in the public square for Christmas.

“Privately funded Christmas displays are legally allowed in a traditional public forum such as a state capitol, county complex, or city hall lawn,” O’Malley explained.

The public agrees. A Washington Times poll reported that 72% of those surveyed, an overwhelming majority, agree with placing privately funded religious scenes on public property.

The Thomas More Society serves as legal counsel in placing and, if needed, defending the placement of Nativity scenes in public places all across the country. These pro bono attorneys assist Nativity scene sponsors, provides citizens with knowledge and support to display these crèches in an open public forum.

Through their partnership, the American Nativity Scene and Thomas More Society have co-sponsored, assisted with, or promoted Nativity displays at state capitols including California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas. Additionally, there are Christmas Nativities at the state capitols in Arkansas, New Jersey, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and the governor’s mansion in Oklahoma.

Now with the new record of having Nativities displayed at over half the nation’s capitols, the American Nativity Scene’s mission to place a Nativity displays in or directly outside state capitol buildings in all 50 states will continue with added incentive.

O’Malley affirmed, “We are committed to our goal of keeping Christ in Christmas across the nation.”