Another Nativity Comes Down in Arkansas

Same story, different state. For four decades the nativity in Baxter County Arkansas was a holiday tradition that went up without complaint. All of a sudden a judge rules it unconstitutional.

Baxter County, Arkansas, home to about 45,000 people in the northern part of the state, was ordered to remove the nativity display after a hearing on a suit brought by county resident Dessa Blackthorn and the American Humanist Association. The suit claimed the county and county Judge Mickey Pendergrass had allowed the Christian nativity display to remain at the courthouse while denying requests from other groups.

Blackthorn said Pendergrass denied her request to put a “Happy Winter Solstice” banner near the display.

The display is owned and erected each year by a local attorney. In 2014, the county leased the small piece of land where the nativity now sits to a local chamber of commerce for $1.

In their December 2014 suit, Blackthorn and AHA had asked the county to either allow displays from other faiths – or no faiths at all – or remove the nativity scene. The county maintained the plaintiffs lacked standing in the case since they have not suffered any injury from the nativity.

In his order, U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks ordered that Baxter County must either “refrain from placing any religiously sectarian seasonal display on the courthouse grounds” or “create a public forum on the courthouse grounds for a seasonal display open to persons of all faiths as well as of no faith at all, without discrimination on the basis of viewpoint.”

The AHA is celebrating the ruling with a pin-the-nose-on-Rudolph party at headquarters while sticking voo-doo pins in Baby Jesus dolls.

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