Dozens of Christians have been protesting in a town in Ohio against the city’s decision to follow an atheist demand and not allow a Nativity scene this Christmas at the courthouse.
Another Ohio town has pushed back against the same demand and said that it will continue displaying its Nativity, however.
The Record-Courier reported that between 40 to 50 Christians protested outside of the Ravenna Courthouse Lawn on Saturday, urging Mayor Frank Seman to allow a Nativity scene to be displayed there.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation, an atheist group which has been filing lawsuits around the country concerning separation of church and state cases, had written a letter last year warning Seman over the Christian display.
Seman told community volunteers the day after Thanksgiving that there will be no Nativity this year at the courthouse, explaining that he had to uphold the Constitution and make sure the city does not get sued.
The Christians protesting on Saturday said that the town should have a Nativity, however.
“We would like to have the Nativity scene come back on the courthouse lawn,” said David Ballert, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Ravenna. “I’m here with my people because we care very much about the Lord Jesus Christ ... I believe Ravenna is a great town. I believe that a town deserves to have Jesus Christ in it.”
Ballert revealed that the church members protested on Dec. 1 and are planning to return to protest on Dec. 22 as well.
The pastor said that believers sang carols and hymns and received friendly responses from cars passing by.
“Everybody driving by seems to be saying ‘hello’ to us and ‘Merry Christmas’ ... I have no doubt the people are behind what we’re doing here,” he noted.
Streetsboro Mayor Glenn Broska, meanwhile, said that he will continue allowing a Nativity display at the city square, despite receiving a similar letter by the FFRF years ago.
“I posed the question to the law director how we should respond,” the mayor said. “As long as it’s part of a much wider-ranging display, which ours is, we’re OK. We didn’t use any municipal funding for it.”
Broska clarified that he would accept holiday religious displays from any faith group that asks for one.
“We have a menorah now, and if there are other religions out there that would like to have something displayed, as long as they purchase it, we would be glad to put it up,” he said.
Yet another Ohio town, Dover, was forced to remove its Nativity scene and a Ten Commandments display earlier in December after the FFRF threatened to sue. FFRF said that it has recorded 750 complaints in the state since 2015.
"We have freedom of religion and they're saying that we're endorsing one religion," Mayor Richard Homrighausen told Fox 8 at the time.
The Christian displays in Dover had to be moved to private, instead of public, property.