Reynoldsburg, OH Mayor Ignores Law on Holiday Scenes – Again

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I thought I might escape 2005 without having to mention another argument over a city government trying to put up a Nativity scene on public property but alas I didn’t.

In 2004, the mayor of the city of Reynoldsburg, Bob McPherson, accepted the donation of a Nativity scene from a local church and had it setup on the front lawn of city hall. He believed that if the city owned it then he could place on the lawn without having to follow previous US Supreme Court rulings (having other secular items setup with it).

A member of my Humanist group complained and requested that a sign with some text that read be placed on the lawn as part of the holiday celebration:

At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail
There are no gods no devils no angels no heaven or hell
There is only our natural world, let us be joyful and welcome the
longer days and the new year.

The mayor refused the offer because as he stated:

“I’m not saying it’s an inappropriate message,” McPherson said. “It’s just inappropriate right now because the city is celebrating the secular holiday of Christmas.”

Compromise offered on Reynoldsburg nativity scene Columbus Dispatch 12/16/2004

Some city governments who allow religious symbols for the holidays only allow symbols and not text. It is obvious that established religions have an advantage because most people see the symbol and know the context and the feeling around the symbol.

In 2005, the mayor didn’t put up the Navtivity scene. He claimed that road work in front of city hall made it too difficult to keep the scene safe from damage. He intends to put it back up in 2006 along with symbols from other religions:

McPherson said he already has approved a symbol celebrating the winter solstice and another for the Hindu religion — a partman, part-eagle deity called Garuda who sometimes represents the sun.

Of course if he plans on including such symbols then he also needs one from Kwanzaa, Jain, Sikh, Witchcraft, magick, the occult, Sumerian, Zoroastrian, Baha’i, Islamic, Wicca, Neopaganism, Druid, Celtic, and on and on. If Mayor McPherson says no to any religious symbol then he is risking the city of Reynoldsburg to a law suit.

Just like in 2004, McPherson is ignoring the law and even the advice of his own City Attorney:

City Attorney Bill Underwood said he has advised the mayor that the city should limit itself to the lights and a “Season’s Greetings” sign.

“Once you get into being selective is when you get into problems and First Amendment rights,” Underwood said.

He said the other alternative is to allow all symbols, which can make for a crowded lawn.

City Hall lawn gets respite from Nativity controversy Columbus Dispatch 12/25/2005

Here is the mayor’s contact info:

Mayor Bob McPherson
City of Reynoldsburg
7232 E. Main Street.
Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068

614-322-6800

Side Note

I also wanted to post about one of my pet peeves that involves issues like this. Always the non-believer or those wanting to keep government out of the religious cheerleading business, seem to be cast at least as trouble makers and at worst un-American, because we are trying to protect our civil rights.

That is just wrong.

The Columbus Dispatch, in the article about the Reynoldsburg update, failed to include any comments from the person who complained in 2004 or even to name the group that also complained then. The paper did include a quote from the pastor of the church who donated the Navitity scene and “his” view of the issue.

We’ve seen negative coverage of our view in the media during the Pledge of Allegiance court case and the recent issue of crosses being used as roadside memorials in Utah.

The thing is that those of us who support separation of church and state aren’t asking the government for special treatment or for authorities to ignore the law like Christians are. Why should we be the bad guy.

For once I would like see a fair and balanced story about church and state issues.


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