WATCH: O’Reilly cheers on City’s Ebenezer-like change of heart
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 firstname.lastname@example.org
Last night, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and Martha MacCallum announced the 2014 recipient of the annual Becket Fund Ebenezer & Eggnog Toast awards. Although for the last 15 years, we at the Becket Fund have been presenting our “Ebenezer award” to the worst offender of Christmas or Hanukkah celebrations, this year we did something different. We focused on the happy ending of A Christmas Carol: Ebenezer’s change of heart. Therefore, the Ebenezer award went to the city of Sioux Falls — but only for a brief moment — for trying to censor kids’ religious art on snowplows. The eggnog toast went promptly to the mayor of the same city who defended the kids’ Christmasy décor. Having learned of the award, the City celebrated its national recognition by issuing this statement:
Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Mayor Mike Huether’s office was informed yesterday that the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty was planning to acknowledge the City of Sioux Falls and also Mayor Huether in a news release issued today. This relates to the City’s Paint the Plows program, which uses student artwork.
“Sioux Falls is becoming more and more diverse every day, and that is something we celebrate here. We value diversity and differing opinions. Everyone is important in our town,” says Mayor Mike Huether.
All 27 of the painted plows are being utilized this winter for their intended purpose: to provide safe travel for the driving public during snow and ice events. The City is not endorsing any particular message or viewpoint expressed on any of the student artwork.
In the face of opposition to some artwork, the City initially inquired whether the students would be willing to create different artwork or if they would object to painting over the work. The City never censored the artwork or painted any work. Instead, each plow now carries this disclaimer: “The City of Sioux Falls encourages creativity. This ‘Paint the Plows’ work is created by students. Any message or views expressed are not those of the City or endorsed by the City.”
What happened in Sioux Falls, just like in Dickens’ classic, is a great reminder that it is never too late to switch to a better course; that it is never too late to remind ourselves and each other that we are born with our eyes on the far horizon; that to express our sincerely held convictions in music, art, and—yes!—even snowplow blades, is not only Constitutional but part of what makes this country great.