Officials of a county in Arkansas rebuffed the efforts of a group of atheists earlier this month after they sought the removal of a nativity scene from the courthouse. The concerned officials decided to reinstall the religious display for public viewing but this time, added a disclaimer next to it.
Reportedly, the nativity scene is erected each year on the lawns of Baxter County Courthouse in Mountain Home, Arkansas, in memory of a deceased lady known as Coralee Faith Spencer. Apparently, the scene also includes secular elements like a Christmas tree and Santa Claus. The disclaimer alongside the scene this winter says the Spencer family promotes it and the government has no involvement in its display.
“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 nativity reads. “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 disclaimer came a year after a group of atheists pushed to add a Happy Winter Solstice banner next to the nativity scene to counter its religious message. However, that request was denied by County Judge Mickey Pendergrass in 2013, following which American Humanist Association demanded the nativity scene be removed as well. That is when government officials from Arkansas sought legal help to find more viable options that would allow the nativity scene 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, however, have been ignored.
The county’s latest resolution, which was adopted by all 11 eleven members of the quorum court, cited a 1994 Supreme Court ruling that says nativity displays can be installed as long as they carry a disclaimer alongside them. Officials have also clarified that no government employees were involved in funding, installing or removing the religious display.
Photo Credits: Gannett