First, let's run down the principle of equal access:
The term "Equal Access" derives from the constitutional principle that when the government confers benefits on a broad group of citizens, it must not discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs or speech. The concept is grounded in several provisions of the United States Constitution, including the Free Speech and Free Exercise of Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. When, for example, a government opens a public park for use by community groups and individual citizens, it may not discriminate against some citizens or groups because of the content of their speech.I first heard about this concept, on the radio, from Jay Sekulow -- who fought and won a battle before the Supreme Clown Posse to establish the precedent, arguing that a government-run community center could not refuse to allow a religious group the same access it allowed any other group. It sounded like a reasonable position at that time. Government cannot promote or restrict religion; it must treat religious institutions as it would any other.
With that in mind:
Fearing they would run afoul of the ACLU, county officials in Pennsylvania pulled a Nativity display that had adorned a public park for several weeks.On its face, this reads as if the county has been hounded into submission already, and now does the bidding of the evil secularists at the ACLU without even being asked, to save themselves the time, trouble, and legal expense that will surely follow if their ACLU taskmasters discover the breach.
Beaver County officials said the group that set up the display before Thanksgiving did not get permission, but if they had asked, they would have been rejected because the county soliciter has determined it violates the U.S. Constitution, the Beaver County Times reported.
The county commissioners chairman, Dan Donatella, told the paper the commissioners disagree with the interpretation but are obligated to obey it, citing two previous instances in which the ACLU has threatened lawsuits over creches.
The county removed one in the courthouse and another in the jail.
Organizers of the county's annual Festival of Trees fund-raiser, which benefits children served by the county's Children and Youth Services, placed the scene of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the star of Bethlehem and two lambs at the entrance to Bradys Run Park.
"Had [festival organizers] consulted with us, they would have been informed that they could not put that Nativity set on county property," Donatella said. "Under law, we're not allowed to do that."
Indeed, given how common the "War on Christmas" refrain has become, it would hardly be surprising to learn that the officials who ordered the displays removed actually thought the ACLU was about to unleash a pack of hell-hounds to kill the first-born of every house as punishment for allowing a nativity scene on public land. I mean, that's what liberals do!
Vic Walczak, legal director for the Pennsylvania ACLU, told the Beaver County paper religious symbols arbitrarily erected on public property are unconstitutional because they endorse a particular religion, and government must represent people of all faiths.What?
"If Beaver County is putting up that creche, what's the message they're sending to residents: We promote, support and endorse Christmas and Christianity?" he said. "Does that mean Christianity is better than the other religions?"
Walczak said it would meet constitutional requirements if the park entrance allowed all groups to display religious messages on a first-come, first-served basis.
The ACLU is arguing for equal access, and the government is ordering no access?
And the persecution fetishists win again. The ACLU takes the blame, without lifting a finger, and the "War on Christmas" legend continues to grow . . .