Arkansas School District Fights for Christmas

The superintendent of a public school district in Arkansas said it’s time for Christians to take a stand and that’s why he’s decided to reinstate a Nativity scene – in spite of possible legal action.

“Enough is enough,” said Jerry Noble, superintendent of the Green County Tech school district. “It’s His birthday. We celebrate Jesus’ birthday. One person should not be offended by that. We don’t leave it up all year. We’re not promoting religion. It’s not an effort to convert anybody.”

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, “Happy Birthday, Jesus.”

Noble said they had received some complaints about the decorations and after consulting with an attorney, he decided to remove the Nativity.

“My personal belief is that we should fight this sort of thing, but I didn’t want to put the school district at risk,” he said. “I 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 that’s not my job to do that.”

But his decision sparked a massive outcry in the community – and one organization offered to cover any legal costs the school system might incur over a lawsuit. That offer helped change the superintendent’s mind.

“To be honest with you, we offended a lot more people by taking it down than leaving it up,” Noble said. “So we put it back up.”

Noble, who is a Christian, said he doesn’t understand why anyone would be offended by the Nativity.

“Personally, I’m a Christian and if I’m going to offend somebody, I’d rather offend the non-believer – if it’s legal to do so,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas said told radio station KUAR that the school district must obey the Constitution.

“To say that if you have to offend somebody you’d rather offend those in the minority, well that’s just what the Constitution and the First Amendment are all about – not offending the minority, standing up for everybody’s right to practice their religion whether there is one person in your town or a thousand,” ACLU Director Rita Sklar told KUAR. “That the superintendent and perhaps others don’t have respect for that, I think is very sad.”

The Nativity scene was erected by Kay Williams, a counselor at the primary school. She’s been doing it for more than 20 years without any hint of controversy.

“We do live in the Bible Belt,” Williams told the Paragould Daily Press. “One 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.”

That, Williams told the newspaper, is why they decided to take a stand.

“I think the people realized [this issue] is here and we better take a stand,” 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.

“The Christians in America have been silent for too long,” Noble said. “That’s why I struggled with it in the beginning.”

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