Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Nativity scene protests a Denver holiday tradition: Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

The riot of shepherds and reindeer and snowmen and candy canes and an oddly large cow, not to mention Jesus, Mary and Joseph, appears on the steps of the City & County Building every November, and protests inevitably follow. But Scrooges miss the real question: Why is Denver's Nativity scene so tacky?

The Colorado Coalition of Reason has purchased three billboards complaining about the scene. Explains Marvin Straus of CoCore, whose first board will go up on Monday: "The Nativity scene is a religious icon and it's on public property."

Tacky, yes. But religious? Only if you worship rampant commercialism. Here's my inventory of Denver's Nativity scene:

1) Plastic Santa in his sleigh, heading up a ramp behind four pairs of plastic reindeer, with red-nosed Rudolph in the lead.

2) Wooden stable covered with glass to protect the contents: lots of hay and eight elf-like figures imitating the Country Bears, several playing instruments -- including a "Sunnyland" washboard -- while two elderly elves (or are they Oompah Loompahs?) canoodle in the back.

3) Plastic snowman with carrot nose, standing by more hay.

4) Garlanded arch with two Christmas trees on each side.

5) Wooden stable covered with glass to protect the contents: lots of hay and eight figures depicting the Nativity scene, complete with Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus, three Wise Men and two shepherds (their hands outstretched, but holding no staffs), as well as a donkey, a camel, three sheep and a very large cow. And on top, an angel.

6) More hay.

Then there are lights, of course, lots of lights -- energy-efficient LED lights purchased last year and guaranteed to save money in the decades to come.

And the Nativity scene will re-emerge every holiday season for decades, judging from the many rounds of court fights that protesters have waged and lost. I unwrapped all those cases in my Creche course on Denver Nativity law last year -- but that won't stop the protesters this round, or turn off the lights that turn the City and County Building into a rancid birthday cake every year.

Let there be blight.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "CLEAR returns to Denver International Airport, backed by ex-cabinet official Michael Chertoff."