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Is a nativity scene really offensive to reasonable people?
We understand the reasoning behind prohibiting religious displays on public property. The Judeo-Christian majority would certainly be offended should a satanic cult appropriate public property, and atheists have a right to object to their tax dollars being used to “promote” religion, as tiny an amount as may be involved.
But it’s impossible to deny that Christmas is a key part to our culture, and we see people at all points of the religious spectrum exchanging gifts and enjoying time off with family and friends over traditional holiday periods established to worship a higher being. Few businesses are unwilling to cash in on the gift-giving tradition.
A recent dispute in southern Iowa seems to have been settled by a compromise, although like most political compromises, neither side is completely satisfied.
The traditional Nativity scene was erected Nov. 18 outside the Appanoose County Courthouse in Centerville, but some residents complained about a religious display on government property.
An interesting side note: the county owns the courthouse and land underneath, the city owns the actual lawn.
While the city administrator originally approved the display, he reversed his decision after the objections and told organizers it needed to be moved before Thanksgiving.
It took until Dec. 9 to round up enough volunteers to move the display off the lawn and to a new, presumably privately-owned spot a couple of blocks south.
As could be expected, a number of speakers at a city council meeting were sharply critical of the scene’s removal, and asked that it be moved back.
But since the item wasn’t on the agenda, the item couldn’t be voted upon, and the Nativity scene will likely stay where it is until Christmas.
The line of separation of church and state is blurred in many areas, but Christmas seems to bring the issue into sharp focus.
Public institutions should be able to reasonably acknowledge cultural activities rooted in religious beliefs without fear of being taken to court.