A small town in North Carolina isn't backing down from an ongoing battle with atheists over a nativity scene that is traditionally placed outside of a local courthouse, with the scene once again sparking controversy after officials unveiled a new — and even larger — display.
After government leaders in the town of Dallas decided to move the nativity to private property last year under threat of a lawsuit from a secular activist group, residents pushed back with a well-publicized protest.
They brought Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and other biblical characters to life through costumed protesters who reenacted Christ’s birth in the very spot where the nativity typically sat each year, as cars whisked by, honking in support.
This year, officials decided to return the nativity to government property — a decision that is already catching the ire of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, which could once again threaten to sue over the scene, WJZY-TV reported.
This year's display is much larger, but includes some elements that Dallas officials believe could temper this critique, including snowmen, reindeer and other secular symbols. The town attorney believes that the nativity can now stand on public property along with these symbols, but, according to WJZY-TV, the scene is once again under fire.
"People have a lot of different views on the holiday season and we would say the best way to express that is through churches and businesses and peoples private homes," Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Patrick Elliott told the outlet. "Government property should be left out of that."
Elliot wants the town to remove the scene, but despite his atheist group's potential lawsuit threat, some in Dallas seem resolute.
"We all love Jesus," alderman Jerry Cearley told WSOC-TV. "This is what our citizens want, and if they sue us it's worth it."
Alderman Allen Huggins added, "The community wants it there. That's who I'm here to serve."
The town, which has no plans to comply, celebrated its presence outside of the courthouse on Friday night with an annual holiday event.
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