SPRINGFIELD – At noon on Tuesday, December 3, 2013, the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee (SNSC) unveiled its annual display depicting the newborn Christ Child, lying in a manger inside a handcrafted wooden stable for the sixth year in a row.
The crèche stands in the center of the Illinois State Capitol Rotunda, next to the Governor’s “Holiday Tree.”
The crèche and manger represent a constitutionally protected expression by private citizens, the SNSC, in a traditional public forum, namely, the Capitol Rotunda, where political rallies are routinely held during sessions of the Illinois General Assembly and at other times during the year.
"This is classic free speech, as well as citizens’ free exercise of their religious faith in the public square," a statement from the group said, "where the sole role of the government is that of a viewpoint-neutral gatekeeper assuring open access for all citizens to have their say. Government is neither censor nor endorser of such religious speech."
The SNSC Christmas display is privately funded and sponsored, bereft of any government aid or endorsement. Its primary goal is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. But its secondary mission is to proclaim and demonstrate to the public and to the media alike (statewide and nationwide) that such private expressions of religious belief in the public squares of our nation are not merely tolerated but fully deserving of robust legal protection.
The December 3 celebration opened with an invocation by Rev. Bernie Lutchman, President of Business Men in Christ (Springfield). Christmas carols were sung by the Official Praise Team of Springfield Baptist Church and led by Music Pastor Brian Morgan.
Speakers included Most Rev. Thomas J. Paprocki, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois; Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, an SNSC member and legal counsel; Pastor Charlie Carver from South Tower Community Church of Dawson; and SNSC member Beth Rogers of Springfield. Pastor Brian Williams of Broken Chains Church – located 1 block from the Capitol – will present a message about Jesus and hope.
A special highlight of this year’s ceremony was the laying of a Christmas wreath by Chaplain Steve Holden of US Emergency Chaplains Corps (USECC), as a special and seasonal recognition in honor of the service and sacrifice of America’s military veterans.