November 30th, 2011
09:20 PM ET

Nativity Project leaders hope Supreme Court trek resonates

By Stacey Samuel, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) - It made for an incongruous sight on Wednesday morning, as volunteer actors playing Mary and Joseph walked in procession in front of the U.S. Supreme Court with Baby Jesus (a 4-month-old).

Following them - wearing crowns and robes that didn't fully conceal jeans and sneakers underneath, - were volunteers dressed as two Wise Men and a Wise Woman, trailed by a two-humped camel and a 6-month-old donkey (also named Mary). The people weren't guided by a star, but by their religious conviction.

"First [we're] proclaiming the powerful message of Christmas: peace on Earth and good will toward men," said Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, who helped organize the Supreme Court Nativity. "And, then also embracing and celebrating religious freedom and our First Amendment right."

The Wednesday event launched its annual Nativity Project, an effort Mahoney is leading with activist Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the group Faith and Action. Now, in its fifth year, the gathering is the largest it's ever been.

"Well we added more singers this year and did that quite deliberately, because we found that the music conveys the message better than anything else, certainly better than preaching. Preaching doesn't go over real big on Capitol Hill, so you have to find new ways of transmitting the message," Schenck said.

The campaign is meant "to confront the erosion and hostility toward public expressions of faith especially during the Christmas Season," according to the announcement for the Nativity Project.

The hope is that religious groups and ordinary citizens will follow in suit in other communities nationwide, without fear of violating court rulings that ban public displays of Christmas crèches - often because they require public funding. The way around it, say the pastors, is to get a permit and have the funds for the scenes come from private donors.

"One of the reasons we are going in front of the Supreme Court with a live Nativity scene," Mahoney said, is "so no court in no municipality, anywhere across America, can say it's unconstitutional when we've been given permission to go in front of the U.S. Supreme Court."

He showed his permit allowing the group - it included a harpist - to walk from their offices on 2nd Street to the foot of the Supreme Court, and passing Capitol Hill.

Getting the permit also required having the animals tested for disease, Mahoney said.

Known for controversial exploits such displaying billboards linking Planned Parenthood to a "black genocide," Mahoney and Schenck collaborated on the Nativity Project, hoping to send a softer message and thus achieve broader appeal.

"Hopefully, people will focus on the broader message," said Mahoney, who acknowledges his past activism has been seen as divisive. "I think the message of hope and peace that Jesus brings transcends any political ideological views. There's not a Presbyterian Jesus, or a Baptist Jesus or an Episcopal Jesus, there's Jesus who's the hope of the whole world."

Their purpose now is to restore a tradition some will say has been supplanted by Santa Claus and "Frosty the Snowman," to bring back to the fore the scene and players revered by more than a billion Christians.

The pastors say that with the commercialization of Christmas, the holiday's spiritual meaning has been lost.

"Maybe in the new economy, it's going to force people to go back to a more simple, meaningful type of Christmas celebration," said Schenck, "...and maybe a simple little apple and a kiss on the cheek will do a lot more than a funny toy that'll be used for a few months and put away."

The message they want to send isn't just for Christians, Schenck said.

"Christmas transcends every kind of religious sectarianism," he says. "I've been to Muslim countries where families celebrate Christmas in their homes, because it transcends culture, and it transcends ethnicity, and we hope the message of Christmas ... is a message every person from every tradition and every background can embrace."

Members of other traditions generally see Christmas as a distinctly Christian holiday.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Christmas

soundoff (571 Responses)
  1. Rudolph

    Advance Merry Christmas to all.............atheists!

    November 30, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • Odin

      And an advance, "happy Thorsday" tomorrow to you (and 51 other times per year)..... Christian!

      November 30, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • ZEUS

      PARDON ME?

      December 1, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Karen

      I'll take it...I get a few days off. Csnt wait for Easter too.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Happy Yule/xmas

      December 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  2. Mr Chihuahua

    It resonates all right, like a huge fart lol!

    November 30, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  3. sybaris

    Who played the Roman guard that Mary slept with?

    November 30, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • NewSplash

      It was YOU!

      November 30, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • Observer

      Herman Cain?

      November 30, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  4. Danny

    These guys just don't get it! There is NO war on Christmas and there is no "hostility toward public expressions of faith especially during the Christmas Season,"! There IS a war on the use of public funds to finance public expressions of faith! (That whole separation of church & state thing) I LOVE how they say that "The way around it, is to get a permit and have the funds for the scenes come from private donors"!!! YES! The way "around" the law is.... TO OBEY THE LAW!

    November 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Green Furhammer

      agreed. even though i'm an atheist i don't care why people celebrate christmas. i like the holidays just as much as anyone else.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • Nah

      dan: "There IS a war on the use of public funds to finance public expressions of faith!"

      Ah, right. Of course. But public funds can be used for the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, and any other political organization, right?

      So what marks out religions such that they can be discriminated against when it comes to public funding?

      November 30, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • nonanomo

      Nah, it's called the First Amendment. Duh.

      December 1, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  5. Observer

    It is so ironic that they have the "Wise Men", which is the ultimate in HYPOCRISY for h0mophobic Christians.

    Many of the same Christians who celebrate the Wise Men are ignorant enough to trash gays for their "abomination". Those hypocrites are praising the Wise Men for bringing an abominatoin to Jesus's birth. Incense is an abomination to God.

    November 30, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Wonderer

      Is it really true that 99% of the atheist's populace are gays and they hate God and the Bible sooo much just because of Leviticus 20:13?

      November 30, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Observer


      Do atheists hate God? Wow!

      November 30, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • Wonderer

      Yep! Goldsmiths hate rumpheltiltskin.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  6. J.J.J. Schmidt

    More symbolism over substance. If you really want to demonstrate what Christmas is all about this year, do it right. If you have two coats, give one to a cold person on a steam vent. Feed a homeless person at your family dinner. Visit a nursing home in an indigent neighborhood dressed as Santa. Volunteer to bring cheer to your local Veterans Hospital.
    But, we have this buffoonery every year with clowns dressed in costumes acting out a fairy tale, accusing people of persecuting them. Real persecution was when Christians were fed to lions. Grow up.

    November 30, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • Will

      You sure do sound like a old miserable man, who has lost all joy and peace. Have you ever wondered why that might be?

      November 30, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • J.J.J. Schmidt

      Because of all the Krazy Kristian Krapp floating around like this! Christmas is a phony, made up holiday, originally to trump solstice but hijacked in this century by profiteers interested in emptying your pockets and filling theirs! Celebrate solstice like a Pagan. Bonfires, feasts and self reproduction! Leave the transnational corporations out in the cold and turn off the radio and those da m n e d K ristmas KKarols.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • Karen

      Totally agree. Well said.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  7. Chuck Hyneman

    The said thing is that in this world, people like freakhunter, shallow as he/she/it may be, are not considered freaks. I am a Jesus Freak and freaking happy about it. Love is all you need.

    November 30, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
  8. Chuck Hyneman

    Jesus said those who follow him will be hated. You haters show his Word is true. Jesus is love. The overwhelming pride keep you Christian haters from experiencing that love. You love evil and dark and depravity but hate the Light. Jesus is the Light of the world. As you keep on hating, Followers of Jesus Crist will keep on loving.

    November 30, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Green Furhammer

      we don't hate jesus. we just know he lied.

      read your bible, you'll see. if you actually read it.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • Will

      Green -u seem to be pompously arrogant in your statement, what makes you think you are gonna live on forever? You know that there is a day of reckoning with your creator, your blog mates here are not gonna come to your rescue then!

      November 30, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • Observer

      Speaking of hate, do you ever hear atheists or agnostics say that if Christians don't do exactly as they say, that they are such des-icable people that they deserve a punishment as bad as spending eternity burning?

      November 30, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • GPC


      It is hard to feel loved by something that doesn't exist unless you fail to grow out of the religious indoctrination you experienced from infancy. You would feel the love of Allah if you had been indoctrinated into the Islamic faith. You would feel the love of any of the thousands of gods that people once or continue to believe in, if you had been indoctrinated from an early age. But people who were never indoctrinated or who grew up and learned to separate fact from fantasy.

      Secondly, your proof for Jesus is so moronic. Jesus said his followers would be hated, so if anyone hates them it must prove that Jesus was really who he claimed to be. Really? This is evidence for you? I bet you wouldn't accept this kind of childish proof from a nonchristian who was trying to prove that their beliefs are the only correct ones.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Atila the Hun

      Well said Chuck, don't let the anti-christian cowards dissuade you, most are just confused pagans.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Green Furhammer

      i'm not arrogant. i just know what the bible says. i know that most christians don't. and i also know that when you quote scripture (which is something christians like to do) they'll claim you're cherry picking. sorry, but you can't make excuses for what the bible says. and according to the bible, jesus was supposed to return nearly 2000 years ago, because jesus said he was going to, but he didn't. the bible is clearly wrong.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Observer

      Atila the Hun,
      "Well said Chuck, don't let the anti-christian cowards dissuade you, most are just confused pagans."

      A recent poll/test showed that the average atheist and average agnostic know more about the Bible than the average Christian and have higher educations.

      GUESS again.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Atila the Hun

      Another recent poll/test showed that the average atheist and average agnostic knows more about science, social issues, politics, technology, x-boxes, taxes, stocks, investments, stress, worries, selfishness, pride, indifference, cowardice... than the average Christian... I guess again that you win... we are simpletons after all, but at least we are happy, while on your case...yes, GUESS again

      December 1, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  9. Green Furhammer

    more about this story of arabs wandering in dirt to find a kid born of parents that did the deed before marriage.

    they claimed it was immaculate to avoid prison time. that is all.

    November 30, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • Fred

      Did they also go back and rewrite the old Hebrew manuscripts to prophesy Jesus' birth after the fact? Jesus loves even you.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Atila the Hun

      Don't loose sleep over it Fred, greeny is just outright confused. Some people don't even know whether Canada is to the north or south of this country.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • Green Furhammer

      were you there when this alleged prophecy was fulfilled? lol

      anyone can come along and claim to fulfill a prediction.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I bet there's a positive correlation between Americans that know where Canada is and Americans that do not believe in any god.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • Cold Breeze Queen of Hearts

      @Hot Air Ace

      Hi, Sweetie! Are you saying that only 2% of Americans know where Canada is?

      December 1, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • HotAirAce

      If that's the true number of atheists in America, then yes, that is the implication. I suspect the number of atheists is much higher, and am certain the stats will agree, but I'm too lazy to once more go get the facts on religious affiliation in the USA. But, given that a correlation does not mean absolute causation, I am willing to be wrong. And yes, I would theorize that there's a general correlation between "dumb" Americans and American believers. If you can be convinced The Babble is true, you can be convinced of almost anything.

      December 1, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  10. FreakHunter

    What a bunch of freaks. Trying to jamb their stupid religious crap down the throats of normal people.
    Normal people everywhere! Rise up! Rise up against these freaks!

    November 30, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  11. navin johnson

    Christmas was celebrated on January 6th. It was moved to December 25th to keep the pagans from celebrating Sol Invictus on December 25th, basically hijacking that holiday. Obviously the only valid holidays are those that revolve around the church. Ummm...wrong. So to go around saying that there is a war on Christmas by a holiday that went to war with another holiday, Sol Invictus, is kinda silly. Move your holiday back to January.

    November 30, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Dano

      Would that make you happy? It would still be about celebrating Jesus, you know.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • Green Furhammer

      i don't celebrate jesus.

      i celebrate new gadget day.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Mallet Feather Blue

      I would suggest that you must buy a new keyboard first and see to it that caps-lock is in good shape.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Green Furhammer

      why? no one is using caps lock.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  12. HarvardLaw92

    For people with only one thing on their small minds, they certainly do seem to have a lot of ways to tell you about it ...

    November 30, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Will

      Wait, you must be that wise nut that is still seeking the truth?

      November 30, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • HarvardLaw92

      Um, no, I'm Jewish. We don't proselytize. You guys might want to try that sometime.

      November 30, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • Karen

      I love that about Jews....they don't shove their belief in everyone else's face.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • nonanomo

      No, they leave it up to Christians to do that for them. if you are a visible target it is much more dangerous.

      December 1, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  13. Rabbi Green

    What about the other holidays in December!???? Christian as usual playing the victim, and ignoring the rights of others not to be annoyed by them.... Other holidays of importants this month.....

    12 Poinsettia Day
    21 Hanukkah
    22 Winter Solstice
    23 Festivus – for the rest of us!
    26 Boxing Day
    26 Kwanzaa
    27 National Fruitcake Day
    31 New Year's Eve

    Many of these are more important then the STOLEN holiday of christmas...

    November 30, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Blue

      How about the rest of the days in the months, it is me me days!. Relax, enjoy all the 365 days in a year who is to prevent you? you can have a day marked for whateva comes to your brilliant mind.

      November 30, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Atila the Hun

      Yo Rabbi, if you are putting Hanukkah in the same level as fruittart day, you better renounce your name and become a muslim convert

      November 30, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Karen

      Happy Festives to all!

      December 1, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  14. zeus_z

    The birth of Jesus was not only prophecy and foretold 100s of years before- Jesus grew up to be everything prophsized, its amazing when you think about it. Even the book of Genesis foretells God sending his only son to be sacrificed and save the world, meaning to have faith and seek him and live a Christ like life.

    November 30, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Jennifer

      Not only was everything about Jesus written long have he supposedly lived, but the bible the very book you bet everything on was edited hundreds of times. So much so that texts like the Ancient Dead sea scroll bare little in common with a modern day bible....

      I mean if your going to put so much into a story, don't you want to at least know the truth?????

      November 30, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • GPC

      Because the Jesus story was written to make it seem like he actually fulfilled prophecy. The gospel writers read the Old Testament prophecies and then wrote about Jesus' life as if he actually fulfilled all of those prophecies. This is where we get the idea of Mary being a virgin from. One of the gospel writers read a mistranslation that the savior would be born of a virgin, so he made up the whole story of how a virgin conceived Jesus. The problem is the actual text said that the savior would be born of a young woman. So, because someone mistranslated young woman to virgin, you get this whole nonsensical virgin birth story that didn't actually fulfill the prophecy that was made.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Karen

      Wow...Hook, Line and Sinker!!!

      December 1, 2011 at 1:08 am |
  15. Fookin' Prawn

    I just really want to know where they got the camel. That's all.

    November 30, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  16. Kabulazimtaera Rafaellanipta Satrigtious Jones

    Can't we all just get along?

    November 30, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  17. Colin

    The Christian myth of the virgin birth of Jesus in a stable is not even original. Well before Christians started to claim this for Jesus (aout 50 years after he died) the same claims were made for Horus (including Virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East) and Apollonius of Tyana (including, once again, a virgin birth, star in the east, wise men). Virgin birth has been claimed for many deities all over the planet.

    Picking one such myth and raising it to the status of an "immutable truth" that must never be questioned might be satisfying to those who desperately want to believe, but any thinking person will obviously reject such demands to blindy accept dogma.

    November 30, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  18. Colin

    Look at the simpletons. The smartest one is wearing a bridle.

    November 30, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Dano

      It is rather amusing to me that you can judge the intelligence of people by looking at still photos. It is also amusing (in a dark sort of way) that the rights of every minority group under the sun are fiercely defended by the mass media et al, but religious people, particularly Christians, are free game for demeaning diatribe and uneducated blanket statements.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Atila the Hun

      look at the Colins, the smartest one is playing historian

      November 30, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  19. johnfrichardson

    Christmas was stolen from pagans. The true meaning of Christmas is that Christians have a long history of cultural hegemony, co-opting what they can't eradicate.

    November 30, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Question

      Do you not celebrate your b'day once every year? or did you steal that from someone else?

      November 30, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  20. Joy to the world!

    Goodwill to all men, Peace on Earth!!!

    November 30, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Magi


      November 30, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      And believers wonder why we athiests refer to their sky daddy in the clouds and chortle at their westernized view of middle east desert dwellers. Thansk for the giggle!!

      November 30, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Giggle!!

      Why "Thansk" me? What word is that, BOOZO?!

      November 30, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • GPC


      I don't laugh at them. Thanks to Christianity, the ancient barbaric views of Middle Eastern desert dwellers are effecting how we live our lives today, and not in a good way. It's depressing that people today buy into myths created by ancient peoples who knew so much less than we know today. Their ignorance lives on in many believers to this day. It's sad.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • Atila the Hun

      I'll stay with the Christians, at old age, they are still smiling and waiting for the Messiah, at leaset they are Happy!!... while, on the other hand, the we-know-the-truth, life-sucks, why-didn't-I get my Xbox from Santa, hi-tech atheists become grumpy, forgotten, old men. Way to go atheists, keep making the world a sour place that sucks. At least the Christians have hope. And don't be stupid: keep trying to shut out the Christians and you will get your wish, they will go... ONLY to be replaced by ... you guessed it: radical wahabist muslims. At least the Christians are not trying to cut my head off...

      November 30, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • ZEUS


      December 1, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Observer

      "At least the Christians are not trying to cut my head off..."

      Christians don't kill people like God commanded because Jesus got God to change his mind according to the Bible. If we did as God originally commended, there would be liitle difference between religious killings by radical Muslims or Christians.

      December 1, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • HotAirAce


      So if god and jesus are one and the same, isn't arguing their arguing with themselves a sign of mental illness? This religion and rationalization stuff is really hard on my head – and the headache disappears once I come back to "there are no gods!"

      December 1, 2011 at 12:51 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.