Pubilc Domain / Inset: Adobe Stock

A Christian advocacy group is celebrating after the US Capitol apparently withdrew its ban against religious ornaments on the US Capitol Christmas Tree. People from all over create ornaments for the Capitol tree and other smaller trees every year, submitting them to the Architect of the Capitol. The US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service releases a guide for making ornaments to decorate the US Capitol Christmas Tree. In the past, the guides have included the line “Decorations cannot include religious symbols.” According to the Christian advocacy group The Christian Defense Coalition, this meant that “Nativity Displays, the Christ-Child or the Holy Family would be prohibited.”

The Coalition had sent letters to the Architect of the Capitol and the Capitol Police Board to decry the prohibition. In one such letter referring to the prohibition in the 2021 guide, the Coalition wrote, “The ‘People’s House,’ as the US Capitol Building is so rightly called, must be a place where all Americans should be afforded the right to come and peacefully celebrate and express their First Amendment Rights.” The group called the ban on religious ornaments “troubling.” “Since the definition of Christmas is, ‘the annual festival celebrating Christ’s birth,’ it would be deeply concerning if ornaments celebrating His birth were prohibited and censored from being on the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree by the order of a government agency,” the letter concluded.

This year’s guide was released without the prohibition. Rev. Patrick Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, celebrated the change. “The First Amendment promises freedom ‘OF’ religion not freedom ‘FROM’ religion. As we celebrate the powerful message and hope of Christmas this year at the U.S. Capitol, let us also celebrate the powerful message of religious freedom and the First Amendment,” he said. The Christian Post reported reaching out to the Architect of the Capitol to confirm that religious ornaments are now permitted but had not received a response back at the time of its reporting.

The inclusion of religious symbols on the US Capitol Christmas Tree could have its downsides. It was reported last year that The Satanic Temple (TST) of Illinois made its own display in the Illinois State Capitol alongside the Christian Nativity scene and Menorah. The display included a crochet snake and apples, representative of Satan in the Garden of Eden found in Genesis 1. The snake was sitting atop the book On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by Copernicus. The book famously shifted away from the belief that the sun and planets revolved around the earth and posited that the Earth and planets actually revolved around the sun. The creation of the heliocentric model is often used by critics of religion to show the church as anti-science, accusing the Catholic Church in particular of condemning scientists like Copernicus and Galileo for their heliocentric ideas. The Catholic Register has attempted to debunk such accusations, outlining how church leaders, Catholic and Protestant alike, encouraged him to publish his findings. “If people want to make Galileo out to be a poster boy for modern science, they will first have to explain why Copernicus was never persecuted for the very same theories nearly 75 years earlier. But even more to the point, unbeknownst to Copernicus, Cardinal Nicholas anticipated an earlier form of the heliocentric theory and, in fact, was celebrated for it by the Church.” TST’s “Minister Adam” called it a show of religious pluralism. “Every year, we do a holiday display and a show of unity and religious pluralism within the state Capitol rotunda,” Adam said. “And this year, we wanted to focus on the book bans that people have been trying to do all over the country.”

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