Letter: Religious beliefs expressed at Capitol building can not be limited to Christianity

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Bishop Thomas John Paprocki blesses the Nativity scene on display in the rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol during a ceremony hosted by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee in Springfield, Ill., Tuesday, November 30, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki blesses the Nativity scene on display in the rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol during a ceremony hosted by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee in Springfield, Ill., Tuesday, November 30, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

I am writing with regard to the Dec.1 article in which Bishop Paprocki defended the rights of Christians to display a nativity scene in the Capitol building rotunda, but asserted that a display from a Satanic organization should have no place there. As the attorney who advises on which displays may be erected in the Capitol building, I am flattered that Bishop Paprocki would bestow upon me the power to evaluate the legitimacy of religious beliefs. But I respectfully decline such authority. I do not want to be able to tell someone their beliefs are offensive and may not be expressed in the Capitol building, nor do I want to live in a country where government officials have such power.

More: Bishop Paprocki: Satanic displays 'should have no place in this Capitol'

Over a decade ago I advised that a nativity scene could be erected in the Capitol building rotunda because it is a public forum in which religious organizations have the same rights as others to express their beliefs. But when I later advised that anti-religious displays could be erected, the people who celebrated the right to exercise their First Amendment rights were outraged that non-believers could exercise those same rights.

I suggest the good Bishop give a little more thought to his desire to live in a country where governments can rule on the legitimacy of religious beliefs. There are a number of such countries in the world and in many of them, Christianity is banned.

Nathan Maddox, Springfield

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: First Amendment allows for a variety of religious displays at Capitol

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