An atheist group has succeeded in forcing the Navy to scrap an annual live nativity presentation at a naval base in Bahrain. The group, identifying itself as the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, sent a letter to the inspector general complaining that the Christmas display violated the Constitution's supposed separation of church and state.
According to the Stars and Stripes military newspaper, the nativity display, featuring children of military personnel dressed as Mary and Joseph, shepherds, and other characters from the Gospel account, had been scheduled for December 6 during an annual holiday ceremony hosted by the Naval Support Activity in Bahrain. The event was also to have included an appearance from “Mr. and Mrs. Claus and Camel,” the paper said.
The atheist missive, sent prior to the event, complained that the nativity scene “is not just support for, but promotion of Christianity as the official religion of the base. This violates the Constitution and the mandates of the command to support all belief while privileging none.”
According to CBS News, the group also claimed it was concerned that the population of the Muslim country might see the Christian presentation and mistakenly believe that the the military force was Christian rather than secular. “The event is billed as a ‘holiday’ event,” the letter pointed out, “but it is nothing but a Christian activity, and it is dishonest for the command to attempt to advertise the event as a ‘holiday’ activity when it is so clearly and exclusively biased toward Christianity.... This event threatens U.S. security and violates the Constitution as well as command policy.”
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