New Luzerne County Courthouse holiday display

2014 Luzerne County Courthouse holiday display
2014 Luzerne County Courthouse holiday display

This year’s holiday display on Luzerne County Courthouse grounds includes both religious and secular symbols.

Five years ago, in December of 2009, upon first becoming involved with separation of church and state issues, I contacted the American Civil Liberties Union’s Pennsylvania chapter when I had seen a Christian display prominently featured at the Luzerne County Courthouse. Following some uproar, particularly from local citizens, a more inclusive display was erected in 2009.

This year, in 2014, Lzuerne County officials have correctly followed the 2009 inclusive display with another inclusive display. Kudos to them.

While I would like for there to be no religious symbols whatsoever on courthouse grounds — a complete separation of religion and government — I understand that this is not the current legal reality [religious holiday displays can be placed on government property provided there are other items making the display inclusive] and am happy Luzerne County officials, this time around, are adhering to the law.

Both secular and religious individuals wonder why issues like this are important. Why focus efforts on holiday displays and not larger issues like tax laws allowing unfair religious exemptions? My focus is particularly local, in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area, and ‘smaller issues’ like these are important to challenge because people appeal to these ‘smaller issues’ when defending the bigger issues a la ‘well, you see, there is no such thing as separation of church and state because governments place nativity scenes on courthouse lawns.’

It is nice to see that, years later, the ACLU and I have more than likely left a lasting impact and changed things for the better.

As always, feel free to comment below.

Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula hosts the Stoic Philosophy Podcast; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and has hosted monthly Stoic Philosophy discussion groups for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia. He has appeared on and hosted various radio shows and podcasts; participated in formal debates and discussions; was a guest speaker for college-level courses; was featured in local, national, and international news; and has been invited to speak at various national, local, and statewide events. Vacula received bachelor's degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is currently living in the Scranton, PA area attending Marywood University's graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and has worked with the Arc of Luzerne County's Transition to Community Employment program as a teacher's assistant and job coach alongside adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He also plays poker; volunteers as a member of the website and media team for the Greyhawk Reborn Dungeons & Dragons campaign while playing at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.