Amid backlash, a nativity scene was on display at the Massachusetts State House Thursday, but only for several hours.
The Thomas More Society says they worked with Boston lawyers and State Rep. James Lyons to get permission to display the scene in the Great Hall, according to TC Public Relations.
The scene will be on display from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a clergy will bless the scene at 2 p.m.
Lyons initially phoned the Director of State House Operations in November for permission to place the scene on the State House lawn, but was told by the director, “I have had this type of request over the years, but religious displays are not allowed.”
Written applications were submitted in early December noting the First Amendment, various religious scenes at other state capitols across the country and the lighting of a menorah in the State House that happened Wednesday. The State House also partakes in an annual Christmas tree lighting event.
The application was ultimately granted on Friday.
In a statement, Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society said, “The nativity scene at the Massachusetts State House represents constitutionally-protected free speech and expression of religious faith by private citizens in a traditional and designated public forum.”
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A statement from Boston Atheists reads in part, “It does not seem a coincidence that their display is being blessed and unveiled on the same day that members of the Boston Atheists are putting their own holiday display up -- not on the secular grounds of the State House, but in the shared public space of Boston Common, beside the traditional seasonal displays of other faith traditions.”
Boston Atheists says they will work to counter Lyons if a similar action is done next year.
They said, “If the good Representative feels he must pursue a similar action next year, we'll not oppose him with anything so divisive as a lawsuit. Instead, we'll look to him to support our organization's efforts to place a celebratory statue of the Satanic Baphomet in the State House in the same week, if even for a single day.”