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Officials defend Nativity scene

Resident opposes courthouse display

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 2:05 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 12:00 a.m. CDT
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Lee County Board members on Tuesday defended the Nativity scene in the front lawn of the Old Lee County Courthouse. A local church has set the scene there for more than three decades. A resident recently criticized the county, saying it was effectively endorsing a religion by allowing the Nativity scene on public property.

DIXON – Lee County Board members on Tuesday responded to a resident’s criticism of a Nativity scene in the front lawn of the Old Lee County Courthouse. 

Last week, Dixon resident Matt Fichter contended the county was effectively endorsing a religion by allowing the display, which a local church has set up in front of the courthouse for more than three decades.

“We have religious freedom. That’s what our country was based on,” County Board member Judy Truckenbrod, R-West Brooklyn, said at the board’s monthly meeting. “It’s Christmas. It’s been a federal and state holiday. I don’t see that it [Nativity scene] is offensive. I wouldn’t be opposed to a large menorah out there.”

Board Vice Chairman John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove, said the board’s Properties Committee, which he heads, has fully discussed the issue before.

“We see nothing offensive about it," he said. "If another religion wants to put up a religious display, so be it. If people don’t want to put up a religious display, that’s fine.”

The Supreme Court has addressed the issue of privately sponsored Nativity scenes, which is the type on the courthouse lawn. Liberal and conservative experts on the issue interpret the court’s rulings to mean that such displays should include signs indicating they are privately sponsored and not the work of the government entity. 

Other displays also must be allowed, according to court rulings.

 

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