SPRINGFIELD - Tuesday, November 27, 2012, will mark the launch of the fifth annual Christmas Nativity display in the Rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol. The Springfield Nativity Scene Committee (SNSC) will unveil the Nativity exhibit at a public "opening day" celebration to be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Illinois State Capitol Rotunda, at South 2nd Street and East Capitol Ave. in Springfield.
The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm, has played an instrumental role in securing permits for this privately sponsored and constitutionally protected expression of religious faith in Illinois' central public forum, the classic "public square" and "marketplace of ideas" at the heart of our statewide political community. Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel, noted that the Thomas More Society has been honored to represent SNSC for the last five years, going back to its founding by the late Daniel T. Zanoza, of Lincoln, IL. The Society also has been underwriting SNSC's Christmas displays during each of the ensuing five years.
"So long as these Christmas religious displays and ceremonies are privately sponsored, funded, and held in traditional public forums, they are constitutionally protected," said Brejcha. "Even the ACLU concedes that our Capitol Rotunda Nativity Scene is fully protected by the First Amendment. Christians have as much right to proclaim the joyful message of Jesus Christ's birth as political candidates have to get up on soap boxes to spout their own messages in our public squares."
The privately sponsored and funded Nativity scene depicting the birth of Jesus will begin its seasonal reign in the Rotunda alongside the Governor's "holiday tree." The crèche will be welcomed by a concert of Christmas carols led by Bill Lewis, worship leader of Jefferson Street Christian Church in Lincoln, IL. The celebration will also feature an invocation by the Rev. Bernie Luchtman, President of Business Men In Christ (Springfield), an SNSC member. Other speakers include Rev. Peter C. Harman, Rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, of Springfield's Roman Catholic Diocese, Pastor Rick Giovannetti from Springfield-based Standing in the Word Ministries, and Pastor Charlie Carver of South Tower Community Church in Dawson.
Springfield Nativity Scene Committee chairperson Julie Zanoza will speak and dedicate the event to her late husband, Dan Zanoza, founder and first chairman of SNSC, whose crèche display features marble-like figures of the Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. SNSC's Beth Rogers is also slated to speak.
Church choirs or other groups interested in singing Christmas carols during the weekday noon hour on other days throughout the Christmas season may contact Salli Chernis at the Secretary of State's Department of Special Events, at 217-782-8996, to request permission for selected time slots.
The Thomas More Society is offering free legal help to any individuals or citizen groups interested in putting up similar Nativity Scenes -- privately sponsored and funded -- in any traditional public forum in their own towns, villages, or hamlets in Illinois or elsewhere. The Society can be reached at 312-782-1680.