TORONTO, December 18, 2012 – During the Christmas season, it’s important to assert our right to religious decorations and symbols, as the religious origins of Christmas are the “reason for the season” for so many of us.  Even the occasional vandalism of nativity scenes or other Christmas decorations, or complaints from busy atheists, should not stop us from making the effort.

For example, commenting on the vandalism of the nativity scene at Toronto’s City Hall, Suresh Dominic, founder and head of Gethsemane Ministries, which sponsors the scene, said: “It is disappointing to see the intolerance toward Christianity in our city. I hope Canadians will realize that this hatred destroys the joy and peace that everyone looks for in this season.

“This is a time of joy and peace, as you see the entire city of Toronto gearing up for this Christmas season, and this ruins everyone’s peace,” he said.

The tradition of a nativity scene in front of Toronto’s Old City Hall dates back to 1996, when the St. Thomas More Lawyers Guild obtained a permit to set up a crèche display.
In the succeeding years the crèche, with its depiction of the true origins of the Christmas season, has been a focal point for families, who often stop to take photos while visiting other downtown Toronto landmarks.

Commenting on the tradition of nativity scenes in early December, Pope Benedict XVI has said, “I imagine that, in your homes, you are putting the final touches to your nativity scenes, which are such an evocative depiction of Christmas. I hope that this important element, not only of our spirituality but also of our culture and art, may endure as a simple and eloquent way to remember the One Who came ‘to dwell among us’.”

Joanne McGarry, executive director of the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL), told LifeSiteNews that the vandalism of nativity scenes is not a new problem, but it shows “a lack of respect for religious symbols in the public square.”

“Nativity scenes are a cherished symbol for many people,” Ms. McGarry said. “They are at the centre of the Christian celebration of Christmas. This vandalism is very regrettable, but it should not stop Gethsemane Ministries and all the other organizations involved with nativity scenes from setting up their crèches every year. We need to keep this symbolism in the public square.”

Fortunately, many government departments sent out a directive this year reminding employees they are free to decorate their workspaces with suitable religious decorations during the holiday season. While many atheists will continue to complain about any religious symbols in public or even semi-public spaces, it’s refreshing to see some common sense prevail. In Saskatoon, city council refused to order the local transit authority to remove the greeting “Merry Christmas” from buses despite a complaint from a local activist who called the greeting discriminatory.

“Merry Christmas” is simply a wish for happiness during a festive season. We should accept all such greetings in the spirit in which they’re intended.

       –    With a report from LifeSite News