The baby Jesus needs a disclaimer. Yup. That’s what the world has come to.
For years, the nativity scene along with a Santa and a tree at the Baxter County Courthouse went up. But last year a judge denied a request to allow a banner which read, “Happy Winter Solstice.” The judge said that if the county allowed it, then any and all groups could request to put a banner up and it would get kind of ridiculous.
On Jan. 1, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center notified Pendergrass, Mayor David Osmon and Mountain Home lawyer F.S. “Rick” Spencer that it had received a complaint from a Baxter County resident about the crèche. The scene had been displayed for years in memory of Spencer’s late wife, Coralee Faith Spencer. Along with the nativity scene on the lawn are the Christmas tree and a Santa Claus.
According to the center, based in Washington, D.C., the exclusively Christian display violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. It demanded the nativity scene be removed and assurances be made similar displays would not be erected in the future.
No action was taken in response to the complaint, and the decorations were taken down in January after the holidays.
According to Pendergrass, the resolution was prompted and sponsored by quorum court members. The resolution cites a 1994 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled crèches can be displayed on public property as long as there is a public disclaimer. It noted friends and family of the late Mrs. Spencer “have stored, set up and taken down a crèche in her memory” during the Christmas season, and that the county has a lease agreement with the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce for the northwest corner of the courthouse square for the display.
Pendergrass pointed out no county workers are involved in putting up and taking down the display, nor are any county funds involved.
Under the resolution, the quorum court approved placing the nativity scene on the lawn, accompanied by a disclaimer on a sign that states:
“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. Whatever your religion or beliefs, enjoy the holidays. This display is owned and erected by private citizens of Baxter County.”
Something tells me this won’t please the humanist group. They don’t want a disclaimer. They want the baby Jesus to disappear.