Monday, December 20, 2004


An American tradition: When pushed to the point it hurts, push back

It's been happening all over the country: people fighting against those who want to pretend the feelings of the majority don't count, and the majority are becoming proactive. The marriage amendments across the nation were one case in point. Christmas is becoming another. An example of this:

MILFORD -- Hundreds of counter protesters who say they want to "keep Christ in Christmas," dwarfed ahandful of atheists who gathered on the Green Sunday to protest a Nativity display.

A few times when it looked as if would get ugly, police stepped in to calm both sides as they engaged in face-to-face debates on free speech and the separation of church and state.

The display is a wooden structure with a glass case showing a Nativity scene. At its base is a baby Jesus in a cradle. Next to the cradle is a sign: "This display is provided by the Hyatt family and not erected, maintained or sponsored by the city of Milford."

The counter-protesters sang Christmas carols and "God Bless America," then recited "The Pledge of Allegiance." Their signs ranged from "Keep Christ in Christmas" to "This is a Christian nation -- majority rules."

The Rev. Jim Loomer, pastor of the Berean Christian Center, tried to make peace.

"Would anybody care to hear what they have to say?" Loomer asked the crowd.

The response was a chorus of "No!" and "Go home!"

"They should let these guys speak," Loomer said. "It’s America. Free speech."

When Dennis Paul Himes, Connecticut state director of American Atheists tried to read a statement explaining his position, he was drowned out by the shouting opposition. Himes later said he was surprised by the size of the crowd. Six atheists and about 250 others showed up.

Himes said the Nativity display, set up by the Hyatt family, "belongs on a church lawn, not on public property."

Toward the end of the event, atheist Janos Palotai of New Britain engaged in verbal jousting with Shane Lewis of Milford. Lewis, whose sweatshirt read "I am Satan’s worst nightmare," held his pro-Christian sign in front of Palotai’s sign protesting the Nativity display.

"If you’re trying to cover up my sign," Palotai said, "you must have nothing to say."

"I don’t think it’s right for you to display that sign at this time of year," Lewis replied.

Historically, Americans are very accomodating - up to a certain point. But this year, perhaps, marked a watershed. Starting with all ruckus over the Passion of the Christ, certain veils of "official" toleration fell away, and groups began to clearly take sides. Our culture does honor diversity - but when you do it in a way that says that the values and ideas held by many are worthless compared to the few, you will get repercussions. Expect more to come.

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