For 72 years, the Nativity scene has been on display at a downtown city park in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
This year, after Eureka Springs Mayor and City Attorney demanded it be removed, Randall Christy, executive director of The Great Passion Play held there every Christmas, took a stand.
He announced his stand earlier this week on his Facebook page.
“We ask for your prayers as we take a stand. Christmas is the National Holiday in recognition of the birth of Jesus Christ! The Nativity Scene has been erected since 1950 – 72 years at Christmas time. The Passion Play puts it up for Beta Sigma Phi as a public service to the community… as a regular part of our Christmas decorations.”
“As Executive Director of The Great Passion Play, America’s #1 attended outdoor drama… I REFUSE TO TAKE THIS DOWN !!”
Now, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, an agreement has been reached to keep the vignette in place through the season.
“The baby Jesus can stay put in his manger in the band shell of a downtown city park in Eureka Springs as long as the executive director of the Great Passion Play gets a permit for the display and pays the $25 fee, Mayor Robert ‘Butch’ Berry said.”
Berry denied demanding it be removed but did request it after a town resident “threatened to file a lawsuit saying the Nativity scene violated his constitutional right to freedom of religion.”
“I didn’t demand, just requested that he remove it,” the mayor said, “and he said at that point that he wasn’t going to do it.”
“That’s all you’ve got to do nowadays to get city governments to cave in,” Christy said. “You just have to threaten a lawsuit. They’re going to scramble and avoid their court costs even though they’ve got an attorney on file. If it’s all about Jesus, it’s not even worth a few hundred dollars of court costs. That’s how I feel.”
Berry consulted with an attorney for the city who said if they allowed the Nativity Scene to remain in place, they’d also have to allow any other religious display, even from “people who worship Satan.”
CBN reports, “He explained he was trying to reach a compromise, trying to conform to rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court on what the Constitution allows for religious displays.”
The Nativity Scene has a decades’ long history of being displayed in the park. In years past, there have been problems with vandals stealing the baby Jesus figure or breaking heads off the animals but creative solutions have been found to curtail what has been viewed as mischief.
Christy posted an apology on his Facebook page once a compromise was reached concluding with “We stand together to keep Christ and the Nativity in Christmas in Eureka Springs!!! I’m proud of Mayor Berry for making the right decision.”