Officials in an Arkansas county have rebuffed atheists' efforts to seek the removal of a nativity scene from a courthouse lawn, deciding instead to add a disclaimer. Quorum court members adopted the resolution Tuesday night, permitting the Christian imagery to once again be on public display.
The nativity scene, which is erected each year on the Baxter County Courthouse lawn in Mountain Home, Arkansas, in memory of Coralee Faith Spencer, a deceased local woman, comes along with secular elements as well, including a Santa Claus and a Christmas tree, the Associated Press reported.
The scene representing Jesus Christ's birth is presented by Spencer's family and the government plays no role in the process — fact thats are laid out in the disclaimer that will now accompany it.
"During the Holiday Season, the County of Baxter salutes liberty. Let these festive lights and times remind us that we are keepers of the flame of liberty and our legacy of freedom," the text posted outside the courthouse nativity will read. "Whatever your religion or beliefs, enjoy the holidays. This display is owned and erected by private citizens of Baxter County."
The decision to add the message comes one year after a push to add a "Happy Winter Solstice" banner — a message frequently touted by atheist activists as a counter to the nativity; County Judge Mickey Pendergrass denied that request, according to the Baxter Bulletin.
After that denial, the American Humanist Association, a church-state group, demanded that the nativity scene be removed, though officials ignored that prompt and sought legal precedent to find a more viable option that would allow it to remain.
"This kind of display was determined to be unconstitutional by the U.S. legal system a long time ago," Monica Miller, an attorney for the American Humanist Association, said earlier this year. "I hope that local officials will act appropriately and remove the display and promise to not bring it back as an exclusive government religious display."
These pleas, though, have been ignored.
The county's new resolution, which was adopted by all 11 quorum court members, cited a 1994 Supreme Court Case under which nativities are permitted so long as they include a disclaimer.
Officials also noted that no public workers were involved in erecting, funding or taking down the Arkansas courthouse display.
(H/T: Associated Press)
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