CAPITOL HILL – Some Americans are used to thinking that their religious freedom also means freedom FROM religion. But does that mean all holy activities must be separated from government? One group says definitely not. It's an assembly of Christians who, every year, just feet from the US Supreme Court, bring alive the night of Jesus Christ's birth.
It's not just a religious gathering but a Live lesson about Americans' religious liberty rights.
The scene those Christians present is a live Nativity, including baby Jesus and all those, both two-legged and four-legged, that might have gathered around His manger. That means a camel, a cow, and goats parading around Capitol Hill, much to the delight of tourists and families passing by, who stopped in droves to snap photos and selfies with the beasts.
Peggy Nienaber as the vice president of the religious rights group Faith & Liberty helps organize the Live Nativity every year.
She told CBN News, "A lot of the people forget it between the hustle and the bustle, all the stuff that goes on – the politics on Capitol Hill – there's a reason that we do this: it's the reason for the season and it's the birth of Jesus Christ."
Some might argue that the specific location of this Nativity scene violates the separation of church and state. Lawyer Mat Staver, the founder of the Liberty Counsel, says it really doesn't.
"There is no separation of church and state that requires the government to censor religious viewpoints and speech," Staver argued. "In fact, it's actually the opposite. The government cannot censor religious speech. And this is clearly the essential message of the Christmas season."
Nienaber added, "Our First Amendment right gives us the right to get permits and to hold different events on Capitol Hill, and our event happens to be our outreach, which is the live Nativity."
Participants prayed, worshipped, read the Nativity story from the Bible – and that was all.
"We're not mixing politics in with this," Nienaber explained. "We're not pushing any kind of legislation. We're just letting you know what the true time of the year is."
Staver added, "And sharing that with not only the people here in the nation's capital but people around the world, who'll be surprised as they see a live Nativity in front of the United States Supreme Court."