Court Gives White House a Choice: Pull Out of Christmas Pageant or Remove Nativity

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The US Court of Appeals gives the White House a choice: to pull out of the Christmas Pageant of Peace held every year or to remove a nativity scene.

This decision ends a lawsuit filed four years ago by an Episcopal minister, the president of the American Ethical Union, a rabbi, a Catholic priest, and an atheist. The plaintiffs had sought a complete ban on the nativity scene in the pageant.

Instead of imposing such a ban, judges Edward A. Tamm, Harold Leventhal, and Roger Robb create a set of conditions under which government participation in the Christmas pageant would be constitutional.

In the decision, Judge Leventhal rejects the conclusion of a lower court that the secular context of the nativity scene reduces its religious nature:

"What seems equally, if not more, likely is that the commercial establishments that display the nativity scene, a clearly religious symbol, do so in order to evoke its emotional message, as a motivation for purchase of contemporary equivalents of frankincense and myrrh."
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