An Example Of Christian Privilege And Persecution Complex

screencap from a newsreport

I was doing some “spring” cleaning by finally digitizing some old VHS tapes I had. These contained TV show clips and news stories I saved over the years. One of the news stories was about a controversy over a Nativity scene in Lancaster Ohio back in 1999. I wrote about it for my website back then but had no way of embedding a video clip. I watched it again and found a perfect example of Christian privilege and persecution complex in the space of a short 15 second comment from someone interviewed by the reporter. I now have a short clip I can show people who don’t know what Christian privilege is or don’t understand their expressed irrational persecution complex.

There can be a community of atheists and they can put up what they choose. I believe this community here is not a community of atheists. I believe this is a community of Christians and it’s exciting to see they’re finally pulling together.

The first sentence sets up her idea that we live in homogeneous communities and it seems that she feels Christians should have a special status in her community but not atheists. Then she builds on that point by claiming – falsely that Lancaster Ohio was only a Christian community. Then she ends by saying she is excited that Christians are pulling together. This infers that her “community” is being attacked.

The Nativity scene in question had been installed in a city park for 25 years and no one complained until an atheist did in 1999. Instead of including items reflecting atheism the city removed it from the park and moved it across the street to property owned by a bank. I was not able to find out if the city adopted special rules for returning the scene to the park.

In Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984):

Justice O’Connor, in her concurring opinion, offered a “clarification” of how the Establishment Clause should be read:

The Establishment Clause prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person’s standing in the political community. Government can run afoul of that prohibition in two principal ways. One is excessive entanglement with religious institutions …The second and more direct infringement is government endorsement or disapproval of religion. Endorsement sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.

This is sometimes referred to as the “Endorsement Test.” A law which fails this test is found to be unconstitutional because it “endorses” religion or religious beliefs in such a way that it tells those who agree that they are favored insiders and those who disagree that they are disfavored outsiders. The other side of the coin would be the “disapproval” of religion or religious beliefs in such a way that those who agree with the beliefs are told that they are disfavored outsiders while those who disagree with the beliefs are told that they are favored insiders.

What Justice O’Connor describes is [fill in majority religion] privilege. That is why the woman in the news report was wrong then and would be wrong today if she spoke the same words.

It is not the job of government to cheerlead for a particular religion. It makes those who dissent feel like disfavored outsiders.

*Update* 11/15/2012

Gary Kern, who was the person who complained about the Lancaster Ohio Nativity Scene back in 1999 reports in the comments that the scene was returned back to the city park the next year – 2000 and special rules were adopted to include secular items in the display but the effort was at best half assed as usually happens when cover is given to this kind of Christian privilege. The city still decides what can and can’t be installed and seems biased in the items focusing on the Christian aspect of the holiday.


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  1. Gary Kern
    November 15, 2012

    Doug..thanks for posting this,,,I just now found it,,,I am that atheist to whom you refer,,the city did indeed put it back on govt and the very next year,,,2000…and has been there since,,At that time, they changed park policy to prohibit "unattended, private displays" and added other secular decorations. The bandstand was decorated to be a Santa workshop,,(that Santa has sinced died and no one has taken his place..the bandstand still has banners with secular holiday sentiments but is not as elaborate as it was during Santa's last years). Also added were 3 wooden carolers and,,,,that is about it,,,a Xmas tree that was already there is still displayed> one item that was taken down and never put back was the city
    s advent wreath.

    thanks again,,Gary P Kern. Lancaster

    • November 15, 2012

      Thanks Gary for the update. I know at the time you got some grief for speaking up so I didn’t use your name in my post.

      I always wondered what they did after the cameras went away now we know. I’ll update the post to reflect that

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