The Iona Institute has reported that a Nativity scene was banned in Brussels to avoid offence. Unfortunately, this is yet another in a long series of “Winterval myths“.
The article, promoted by Iona Institute director David Quinn using his twitter account, cited the banned Nativity as yet another example of the new ‘tolerance’.. complete with scare quotes. The article went on to say that the nativity scene and Christmas tree would be replaced with an “electric winter tree.”
The Iona Institute article has since been amended, removing the reference to the nativity scene in the headline, although it is still there in the body text. At 3.30pm, Tuesday, 13th November, there was no acknowledgement on the site of the original error. (edit: the article has since been substantially changed.)
Unfortunately. the truth is far more prosaic. A traditional Christmas tree in the town has been replaced by a modern art installation, inspiring 10,000 locals to sign a petition calling for the return of the traditional tree.
A local councillor of the Flemish Christian Democratic Party, Bianca Debaets, was quoted as saying:
I suspect that its reference to religion has settled the matter is the decisive factor.
However Nicolas Dassonville, spokesman for the mayor of Brussels, said the change has nothing to do with anti-religious motives. He was quoted in Brussel Nieuws (Dutch) as saying:
In that case we would have cancelled the crib? But that will stay, and moreover, it is not true that there is no Christmas tree. On the contrary: by turning it into an illuminated artwork, we highlight the tree even more. Therefore, it will more than ever be in the heart of the ‘Grote Markt’.
And as the local Mayor pointed out, while the Nativity scene remains in place, Christmas trees – whether organic or electronic – are a pagan symbol of winter rebirth.
Update: The Iona Institute have now substantially rewritten their article here. The original article is captured below.
And finally, on a lighter note:
King James Version:
Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.