The superintendent of a public school district in Arkansas said itâ€™s time for Christians to take a stand and thatâ€™s why heâ€™s decided to reinstate a Nativity scene â€“ in spite of possible legal action.
â€œEnough is enough,â€ said Jerry Noble, superintendent of the Green County Tech school district. â€œItâ€™s His birthday. We celebrate Jesusâ€™ birthday. One person should not be offended by that. We donâ€™t leave it up all year. Weâ€™re not promoting religion. Itâ€™s not an effort to convert anybody.â€
Noble told Fox News & Commentary the controversy surrounds a Nativity scene on a bulletin board at Green County Tech Primary School. The bulletin board also included the words, â€œHappy Birthday, Jesus.â€
Noble said they had received some complaints about the decorations and after consulting with an attorney, he decided to remove the Nativity.
â€œMy personal belief is that we should fight this sort of thing, but I didnâ€™t want to put the school district at risk,â€ he said. â€œI could not take it upon myself to get the school in a legal entanglement over separation of church and state because we would have to use tax dollars to fight it and thatâ€™s not my job to do that.â€
But his decision sparked a massive outcry in the community â€“ and one organization offered to cover any legal costs the school system might incur over a lawsuit. That offer helped change the superintendentâ€™s mind.
â€œTo be honest with you, we offended a lot more people by taking it down than leaving it up,â€ Noble said. â€œSo we put it back up.â€
Noble, who is a Christian, said he doesnâ€™t understand why anyone would be offended by the Nativity.
â€œPersonally, Iâ€™m a Christian and if Iâ€™m going to offend somebody, Iâ€™d rather offend the non-believer â€“ if itâ€™s legal to do so,â€ he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas said told radio station KUAR that the school district must obey the Constitution.
â€œTo say that if you have to offend somebody youâ€™d rather offend those in the minority, well thatâ€™s just what the Constitution and the First Amendment are all about â€“ not offending the minority, standing up for everybodyâ€™s right to practice their religion whether there is one person in your town or a thousand,â€ ACLU Director Rita Sklar told KUAR. â€œThat the superintendent and perhaps others donâ€™t have respect for that, I think is very sad.â€
The Nativity scene was erected by Kay Williams, a counselor at the primary school. Sheâ€™s been doing it for more than 20 years without any hint of controversy.
â€œWe do live in the Bible Belt,â€ Williams told the Paragould Daily Press. â€œOne thing that really disturbed most of [the supporters] was we hear about things like this all the time in other parts of the country. But, this is kind of a first for the Bible Belt, here in Arkansas.â€
That, Williams told the newspaper, is why they decided to take a stand.
â€œI think the people realized [this issue] is here and we better take a stand,â€ she told the newspaper.
Noble said the community support and the offer for free legal services led to his decision to allow the Nativity back into the primary school.
â€œThe Christians in America have been silent for too long,â€ Noble said. â€œThatâ€™s why I struggled with it in the beginning.â€