Last winter, the Ravenna Courthouse lawn in Ohio was home to a Nativity scene that never should’ve been there because it’s obviously a promotion of Christianity. If that wasn’t enough, next to the manger was a sign with a Bible verse on it. A local resident created the display and the mayor saw no reason to say no to putting it outside the courthouse.
But it looks like the criticism he received for promoting God through the government got to him. This year, Mayor Frank Seman says he will not allow any displays at all. That’s because he now realizes what he did violated the law.
The mayor said he doesn’t have a problem with the Nativity personally. In fact, he’s a churchgoing man himself.
“I do enjoy seeing it,” he said. “But when people complained, I could not defend it. For me, if I cannot defend something when people complain, I should not be doing it. They were really taking me to task. I probably shouldn’t have allowed it last year.”
That’s about as honest an assessment as you’ll ever hear from a Christian politician: The display was against the law, and no matter how popular it was, he couldn’t justify letting Christians do what other religious and non-religious groups could not.
“I’m not in this to take a stand against religion because I believe in it,” he said. “But there was a reason the founding fathers wanted to keep it separate.”
There are plenty of churches nearby where Nativity scenes are allowed. Ditto for front yards. But the mayor is right to imply that the Courthouse doesn’t belong to any one religious group — and the alternative, to allow any and all displays, often leads to chaos and unwanted attention. It’s not a game he wants to play, so he’s doing the responsible thing by saying no to everyone.
He’ll undoubtedly get backlash for it, but only from citizens who are wholly ignorant of the law and have no responsibility to taxpayers. He should ignore them. Kudos to everyone who spoke out last year, though. At least he heard the advocates for church/state separation who knew what they were talking about.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)