Residents of a small city in New Mexico want to put "Christ back in Christmas" amid an ongoing battle with atheists over the presence of a nativity scene in a public park, so they're planning a massive holiday celebration aimed at sending a powerful message to their secular critics.
As TheBlaze previously reported, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, has been calling for the removal of a nativity scene that has been on permanent display for decades in Belen, New Mexico.
The group first went after the nativity — which was placed inside the park back in 1992 — in August after an unnamed local resident complained that it poses a constitutional violation; the Freedom From Religion Foundation subsequently penned a letter to Belen officials calling the display “unlawful.”
Supporters of the nativity, though, have come together to raise $50,000 for a massive Dec. 5 event called, "Follow the Star" that will include a petting zoo, choir, actors, crafts and an orchestra — all activities aimed at supporting the beloved nativity, according to KRQE-TV.
"We wanted to put the Christ back in Christmas," Pastor Greg MacPherson told the outlet. "We’re standing up as a community."
He added, "We as a community are saying that we support the traditional Christmas and that we support Bethlehem and Belen."
It's the third annual holiday event, but considering the battle that Belen is embroiled in with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, this year's festivities will be the biggest yet, as politicians and local leaders seek to send a strong message to atheists.
City Councilor David Carter has joined Mayor Jerah Cordova, among many others, in doubling down on the display, pledging to keep the nativity right where it is, regardless of complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
"This is part of our history," Carter told KRQE-TV. "It’s not going anywhere."
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.
The "Follow the Star" event is being privately funded through donations and, though it will be held in the parking lot of Belen's city hall, local volunteers are organizing it.
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