As an atheist group continues its call for the removal of a nativity scene on permanent display inside of a New Mexico city park, officials are planning a work-around that could prevent a possible lawsuit: selling the tiny plot of land on which the symbol stands.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been targeting the religious scene, which has been on display inside of a town plaza known as the Theresa Tabet Park in Belen, New Mexico, since 1992.
The atheist group first went after the nativity back in August after an unnamed local resident complained that it poses a constitutional violation, with the Freedom From Religion Foundation subsequently penning a letter to Belen officials calling the nativity "unlawful."
Belen mayor Jerah Cordova told KRQE-TV that the city is now considering selling the plot of land on which the nativity stands, saying that, regardless of what happens, he has no plans of removing the beloved city symbol.
"It’s something we’re considering. We’re considering all options. It’s just one we’re considering," he said of the sale. "I don’t anticipate we’re heading in any other direction other than leaving it where it is."
Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said that she welcomes the sale of the land, but that she would want to also have a fair shot at purchasing it.
"We welcome that. It is an acknowledgement that that what they’ve been doing is inappropriate for a secular government, so this is a good step," she told KRQE-TV. "I think that we at FFRF would like to make sure we have a chance to bid on that land or that it isn’t a deal where it goes to a bidder who wants to maintain the nativity scene right where it is."
Cordova told TheBlaze last month that he believes that the nativity is a historical piece of art that reflects his city’s colorful history, taking pointed aim at activists’ handling of the contentious First Amendment debate.
“The [Spanish] word Belen translates to Bethlehem and nativity. The nativity represents 275 years of Belen history and tradition (Belen was founded in 1740), and nativities have been placed in this area for decades without incident,” he said. “We call it the Heart of Belen — sort of a town plaza — and the park in the plaza is called Theresa Tabet Park.”
Read more about Cordova's strong words for the Freedom From Religion Foundation here.
Follow the author of this story on Twitter and Facebook: