I stumbled upon a useful list (by way of the Friendly Atheist), and I thought I should throw it up here so I can find it when I want it.
My father, who is a devout Catholic, was visiting a few years back, and as we were driving past the Unitarian Universalist church I attend, he commented on the nativity scene in front of City Hall across the street. I was dealing with traffic and couldn’t really look over at it, so I asked him whether Balthazar was inside or outside the stable. We at the church make a stink when they put the white magi inside and leave the black magus standing outside.
He told me all three were together inside. “Good,” I replied, “then we’ll let them keep it up.”
My father commented, “I’m surprised they’re allowed to have one up at all.”
I explained that there have been a recurring problem with their placing statues of dark-hued people with animals while grouping together white-hued people-statues, “but as long as they treat Balthazar like a person, we don’t have a problem with the display.” (There’s also a menorah, a frosty, and a toy soldier – and if other faiths/non-faiths wanted to put up a display, they’d be allowed to.)
“It wouldn’t be up to you,” my father interjected, “if the ACLU steps in, they’ll force it out regardless of what you want!”
“We are the ACLU,” I laughed. He was taken aback.
It was a bit of an exaggeration, but our church had been in touch with the ACLU a year or two before, and they were offering to help us in another little skirmish with the city. Our church wanted to put up a banner in support of marriage equality when Massachusetts was considering a constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriages. (The banner read, “People of Faith for Marriage Equality.”)
Our church is a historic building, so we need permission from some city council before we can do anything that alters the church’s appearance. We needed a permit, and at first they weren’t inclined to give it. (Ostensibly because it would detract from the architecture; in reality, we suspected, because the folks on the council didn’t care for the content of the message.) We began a dialogue with the ACLU, and when the city found out that they were going to face a legal challenge, they decided that maybe the temporary sign wasn’t so unsightly after all.
Our church was active in the fight for marriage equality, and I like to think that it made a difference. Our state senator was one of those who changed his vote between the first Constitutional Convention in ‘06 and the second one in ‘07. To get an amendment on the ballot in Massachusetts, you only need a 25% vote in two consecutive legislatures, and then you only need a bare majority of voters at the ballot. (It’s never ceased to amaze and dismay me that it’s almost easier to pass an amendment than it is to pass a law.)
There are 200 legislators, so we needed 151 to vote against the amendment to keep it off the ballot. The first time we only had 132. The second time we had 151, so the civil rights of the minority never got put to a popular vote. (I’d like to think that the Massachusetts citizens would have decisively defeated it, but you can never be sure; we did elect Scott Brown, after all.)
Anyhow, I explained to my father that religious displays are perfectly constitutional as long as there is a policy that treats all religions and non-religions equally. I also mentioned that the ACLU has frequently defended the religious rights of Christians, as well as non-Christians.
“Well, I’ve never heard about those cases.”
“That’s probably because there are more Christians than non-Christians, so when someone is violating the separation of church and state it’s more likely to be a Christian,” I replied.
“Exactly! There are more Christians!” he retorted. By which he seemed to want to imply that because Christians are the majority they ought to be allowed free rein to incorporate their faith into various government functions. Which is precisely not the lesson that one should draw. But we let the conversation end there in the interests of familial harmony.
Next time the topic comes up, I’ll have a link handy.