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Display policy a wise move

Lee County is considering a policy that sets forth guidelines to govern displays on the courthouse grounds. Allowing a longstanding Nativity scene to continue, as well as opening the door to other displays in an unbiased manner, is a wise approach.

Published: Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

When stores begin promoting Christmas toy sales, the holidays can’t be that far behind.

Neither can the annual placement of a traditional Nativity scene on the northwest corner of the Lee County Courthouse lawn.

A local church puts up the display every year. It is in a perfect spot for motorists on Dixon’s Galena Avenue and Second Street to see and enjoy.

Because the corner overlooks the convergence of two state highways, state Routes 2 and 26, plenty of out-of-town drivers see the display, too.

Questions were raised last year about the propriety of the county allowing its lawn to be used for a religious display.

A group based in Madison, Wis., the Freedom From Religion Foundation, asked to be allowed to put up a winter solstice display on the lawn.

It turned out that the county had no clear-cut policy to govern such displays.

That oversight, apparently, is about to be remedied.

The Lee County Board will consider new guidelines for courthouse lawn displays when it meets on Nov. 19.

According to John Nicholson, chairman of the Properties Committee, groups that want to place displays would have to apply for a permit. He said the county pledges not to discriminate on the basis of religious or political content.

Parameters to be set include size and position, so the displays don’t create a nuisance to maintenance and landscaping operations, or don’t damage the lawn.

Fees, length of time the permit is valid, and how long in advance an application must be submitted will also be established.

Lee County is correct to set forth guidelines for allowing displays, rather than take the opposite approach of banning all displays from its property. Nicholson and like-minded board members are to be commended for their enlightened approach.

Three Wise Men visited the original Nativity scene 2,000 years ago. The actions of wise men, and women, will allow the local commemoration of that scene to continue.

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