Defiant Sheriff Stands Firm Against Atheist Organization

Christmas was over a month ago, but Jefferson County Sheriff Travis Allen in Illinois is still duking it out with the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) – a prominent Atheist organization – regarding the nativity displays that were on the county courthouse lawn during the Christmas season.

The FFRF is known for spotting nativity displays and crosses on public property, and bringing them to the attention of local government authorities in an attempt to have the religious symbols removed on the basis of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. To avoid lawsuits, public officials often comply with the organization’s demands.

However, one county sheriff in Illinois is defiantly standing firm against their demands that they never put up nativity displays on public property ever again. WSPD Local 6 reported:

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“Years ago they used to have a big Christmas celebration with a Santa house and different things,” said [Sheriff] Allen. “We had a lot of requests from citizens to bring that back. Part of a Christmas display is a nativity scene.”

Attorney Ryan Jayne from the Freedom from Religion Foundation says that not everyone driving by the Jefferson County Courthouse sees it the same way.

“The county courthouse lawn is not the right spot to be having religious debates,” said Jayne.

“We’re not putting crosses at the courthouse,” said Allen. “We’re not putting Bible verses up. This is a Christmas display.”

In a letter to the county, Jayne called the display unconstitutional and asked for assurances from the county board that this would never happen again.

“This is people looking for something to be offended by,” said Allen.

“You can have a nativity scene mixed in with Santa’s Workshop, and Reindeer, and all of these other things, and then we wouldn’t have complained about it,” said Jayne.

“What has our country become when we can’t put a nativity scene out in celebration of Christmas because we’re worried about offending somebody?” said Allen. “That’s embarrassing!”

Jayne says he hopes a lawsuit can be avoided, because that simply hurts everyone.

Given that Atheists routinely mock the Bible as a “book of fables” written by “illiterate goat-herders” about an “invisible sky god,” it would stand to reason that the offensive nativity displays in question are actually nothing more than wooden structures with ceramic figurines underneath. And crosses are nothing more than two straight, intersecting pieces of wood, or whatever material they happen to be made out of.

From Atheists’ perspective, the Bible is a laughable myth. That means that any display that purportedly represents something from the Bible is also a laughable myth, and therefore totally meaningless. Why would Atheists be so outraged over something they regard as completely nonexistent?

Jayne with the FFRF acknowledged that if the nativity displays were mixed in with Santa and reindeer, they wouldn’t have brought the issue up. But they regard both Santa and Jesus as equally mythical. A nativity display is the same as “Santa’s workshop” in their eyes. Aren’t they being a little inconsistent with their outrage?

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