Traditional Nativity scenes featuring statues of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds, wisemen and animals always emerge this time of year in celebration of the Christmas holiday. These displays offer many people hope, and they help commemorate Christ's birth.
But every year, without fail, there are debates over these Nativity scenes, with some atheist activists looking to ban and expel them from public property.
Case-in-point: a Nativity scene that was recently booted from an Iowa courthouse lawn.
According to the Des Moines Register, the Nativity scene was installed on the Appanoose County Courthouse lawn in Centerville, Iowa, starting in November — until some residents complained and demanded its removal.
Their claim? The religious display shouldn't be on public property. One self-proclaimed atheist said, "I shouldn't have to see baby Jesus on the courthouse lawn," according to KCCI-TV.
So, the Nativity scene was moved on Dec. 9 to a private lot a few blocks away. But that move has led to consternation, with some residents seeking its return to the original spot on the courthouse lawn.
The conversation has become so heated that more than 1,000 people signed a petition demanding the nativity's return.
And a heated Centerville City Council meeting later ensued, with angry residents speaking out and deeming the Nativity scene removal as an attack on their faith.
The Register reported that the state chapter of American Atheists threatened to "demand equal access to the same property" if the Nativity scene is returned to its original place.
So far, though, no decision has been made to return the Nativity scene and officials have indicated that it will likely stay in its current location off the courthouse lawn.
In the end, the Nativity scene display debate is inevitable each and every year. But these battles have no sway over the powerful hope that the Christmas seasons brings. No matter where you stand, on the debate, keep your focus on the real meaning of the season.