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Community divided over nativity scene on courthouse lawn

Community divided over nativity scene on courthouse lawn

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Nativity scene

Jacob Hall has a petition on change.org to ask that the nativity scene be returned to the square in Centerville, Iowa.

CENTERVILLE, Iowa — An atheist organization leader says his organization will fight to add displays of its own if the city council in a southern Iowa community restores a nativity scene to the county courthouse lawn.

The nativity scene was moved Monday from the Appanoose County Courthouse lawn in Centerville after some residents complained about having a Christian religious display on government property. The county owns the building and the land underneath; the city owns the lawn.

Other residents have urged that the nativity scene be returned, and the council is scheduled to discuss the issue at its meeting Monday.

Justin Scott, state director for the American Atheists organization, said that if the council decides to return the nativity scene to the courthouse lawn, “We will, in fact, demand equal access to the same property."

The issue of religious displays on public property has arisen in several states, including Nebraska.

In 2000, a nativity scene was returned to City Square in Broken Bow with the blessing of the American Civil Liberties Union. The state ACLU director at the time said it wouldn't pursue action as long as the City Square was designated as an open public forum.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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