Arkansas Superintendent Puts Up Nativity Scene in Public School

Jerry Noble, the superintendent of the Green County Tech school district in Arkansas, must hate his job.

He’s doing everything in his power to push his faith onto students, just hoping and waiting for someone to bring on a lawsuit:

“Enough is enough,” said Jerry Noble, superintendent of the Green County Tech school district. “It’s His birthday. We celebrate Jesus’ birthday. One person should not be offended by that. We don’t leave it up all year. We’re not promoting religion. It’s not an effort to convert anybody.”

Yeah! He’s not promoting religion! He’s just telling Jew and Muslims and Hindus that their beliefs don’t matter and they should all pay their respects to the Christian prophet.

Also, kids, when you learn about the Constitution in your Government class, tell your teacher that it’s a waste of your time. The Constitution doesn’t matter. The superintendent said so.

Noble said they had received some complaints about the decorations and after consulting with an attorney, he decided to remove the Nativity.

“My personal belief is that we should fight this sort of thing, but I didn’t want to put the school district at risk,” he said. “I could not take it upon myself to get the school in a legal entanglement over separation of church and state because we would have to use tax dollars to fight it and that’s not my job to do that.”

But his decision sparked a massive outcry in the community — and one organization offered to cover any legal costs the school system might incur over a lawsuit. That offer helped change the superintendent’s mind.

So, basically, his thought process went something like this:

I shouldn’t leave this display up because it could break the law. Wait, the Alliance Defense Fund will pay our legal fees? Fuck the law. Let’s praise Jebus.

Maybe I’m wrong, though. Noble seems like a decent guy. In fact, he doesn’t really want to offend people of other faiths. No. If he’s gonna pick a fight with anyone, it’s the goddamned atheists:

Noble, who is a Christian, said he doesn’t understand why anyone would be offended by the Nativity.

“Personally, I’m a Christian and if I’m going to offend somebody, I’d rather offend the non-believer — if it’s legal to do so,” he said.

Isn’t that sweet of him…

We’re not offended by the Nativity.

We’re offended because you’re presenting the Nativity as the only representation of how people are celebrating the holidays.

We’re offended because you’re not putting up displays from people of other faiths and no faith.

We’re offended because you don’t seem to give a shit that there are students in your district who aren’t Christian and may not accept Christ like you do.

We’re offended because you’re a leader and you should be setting an example for the kids, not making several of them feel left out.

We’re offended because you should know better than that.

So this is the example Jerry Noble is setting for children: It’s ok to break the law. It’s fine to flaunt your privilege when you’re in the majority. It’s perfectly acceptable to egg on a lawsuit when someone with money says they’ll cover your court costs.

Well, if he wants a lawsuit, let’s bring him one. The ACLU already knows about this. The FFRF has been notified.

If you’re a teacher or parent in the district, please get in touch with me and I’ll direct you to the right places.

(Thanks to Meaghan for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Ellise Tucker

    It is embarrassing that I live 30 minutes away from this idiots. 

    • Ellise Tucker

      **these

  • Anonymous

    I don’t even care that much about the nativity scene in the school, but his attitude towards non-believers (and by extension also people with other religions) is just embarassing

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/MrRonda-Mathews/100002819358459 MrRonda Mathews

    It was Mithra’s birthday first. Where’s his display?

  • Anonymous

    Wait, so he doesn’t care about the law, and therefore will put up the display if legal costs are covered, but then goes on to say that he’s ok with offending non-believers “if it’s legal to do so”? So which is it, does he care about the law or not?

    I personally do think there is a place for disobeying laws you think are unjust as a citizen. You offer yourself up as a sacrifice for your cause and for the chance to make your case and change minds (and eventually laws). However an elected official should not force taxpayers to cover the costs of such things.,

  • http://www.quietatheist.com/ Slugsie

    I’m offended because even if you accept that the Biblical Jesus was a real guy all the evidence points to his birthday *NOT* being in December. Much more likely July through September IIRC.

    • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

      Hey… you beat me to it. I was gonna say that exact same thing :(

    • https://www.facebook.com/GentleGiantDK GentleGiant

      Yup, beat me to it as well. That seeming lack of knowledge, in an educator, is offensive to me too.

  • Charles Black

    Doesn’t this guy realise that the law prevents public endorsement of any religion?
    Lets hit him where it hurts with a lawsuit from the Freedom from Religion Foundation to teach the bastard a lesson.

    • Anonymous

      The thing I hate is that this guy and many in positions like his, probably won’t learn any lesson, and he probably won’t be punished.  In many cases, if he kept it up, the school board probably would have backed him up, pay all the legal fees and pay the judgment.  Which all distracts from any actual education that should be going on.

      • EJC

        not to mention that those dollars used to defend that asshat comes from public coffers, meaning WE end up paying for this fuckwipe’s defense!

  • http://twitter.com/bretthascameras Brett Whitman

    I actually live in this town, and graduated from that school. I pass the primary building, which is the building that has the Nativity is in, almost every day when I go to work. I tried contacting him once on his decision about this, but couldn’t get through. I’m going to link him to this post. I’m not a teacher nor do I have any kids, so I don’t think there is anything I can do legally.
    Hemant or anyone else, if you would like to read the article that the local paper did, (It’s not that good, because it’s the local paper.) let me know and I’ll send you the link.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t understand why anyone who’s a taxpayer in the town does not have the right to sue.  I would be furious to find out my tax dollars were being used to promote any religion.

  • Anonymous

    Quick! name someone else whose birthday that is celebrated several months at a time, every year!  I’ve seen a Nativity book in the front window of a Christian bookstore in September.

    Also, who else’s birthday is celebrated on a very specific day that should be very well known to not be that day?  How can a supposed educator not know this?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    But his decision sparked a massive outcry in the community — and one
    organization offered to cover any legal costs the school system might
    incur over a lawsuit. That offer helped change the superintendent’s
    mind.

    He should have discussed this with the school’s legal counsel. And he should have read up on the Dover trial and other similar trials. The Alliance Defence Fund may cover the school’s legal costs, but if they lose the case, the school will still have to cover the opposition’s legal cost.

    • Anonymous

      And also the cost of any actual judgement against the school.  If I were unfortunate enough to live in this town, I’d be at a school board meeting with a document for the board and the superintendent to sign, indemnifying the school for ALL costs related to this fiasco, out of their personal resources.  And if they didn’t want to sign it, I’d ask them, “So, where’s your faith?”

      Then I’d get dragged out and beaten up, most likely, but hey, it’s a nice fantasy.

  • Erik Cameron

    The reason for the season

  • Anonymous

    Happy Birthday Sir Isaac Newton.  We at least have evidence that Newton existed and we know that his work has had a lasting impact for the better on the world.

    Besides Jesus, other mythological deities born on December 25th (the winter solstice as it was before the calendar changed to suit the Catholic church)  include:
    Horus (c. 3000 BCE)
    Osiris (c. 3000 BCE)
    Attis of Phrygia (c.1400 BCE)
    Krishna (c. 1400 BCE)
    Zoroaster/Zarathustra (c. 1000 BCE)
    Mithra of Persia (c. 600 BCE)
    Heracles (c. 800 BCE)
    Dionysus (c. 186 BCE)
    Tammuz (c. 400 BCE)
    Adonis (c. 200 BCE)
    Hermes
    Bacchus
    Prometheus

    • Nazani14

      Thanks for the list!  If I had a bit less to do I’d put up one hell of a light display for the birthday boys!  Maenads on the roof would sure beat reindeer!
      Do any of Celtic or Nordic gods have a solstice birthday?

      • Anonymous

        If they don’t just make it up.  That’s what Christianity did.

  • http://twitter.com/apsalartoll apsalartoll

    I went to a neighboring school district in Arkansas. I can so see this happening just about anywhere nearby. They dislike that they don’t get to use their majority status as a bully pulpit, I get that, but the frigging superintendent of a public school district saying he wants to offend non-believers.. that’s disgusting. Just makes you realize that whenever they complain about not being able to have prayers in schools anymore, they’re really complaining about not being able to convert every single kid in the room. 

    • Mouse

      Recently debated online with a Vice Principal in the Denver public schools who made it very clear that maaaaaybe people of other faiths have standing to raise concerns but atheists are beneath consideration. A vice fricking principal!!

  • starskeptic

     “…not making several of them feel left out.”Hemant, I really hate it when non-believers use the word ‘feel’ in this circumstance – there’s no ‘feel’ about it; non-believers and non-Christians ARE left out…
    Using that word only gives Fox another opportunity to  show Atheists as ‘whiners’…

  • EJC

    I just placed a phone call to Jerry Noble. Of course, he was on “another line”, however, I gave the receptionist my number, my journalist credentials and asked he return the call. I have a list of questions I am going to ask (I am pitching the story to my ED) and I will give the responses should he actually make the call back to me.

    The biggest question is: on one hand you say you do not care if you are breaking the law, and then say in another that you are not afraid to offend “non-believers” as long as it is “legal”. So, this being the case, how do you justify breaking the law to offend?

  • alphabetsoupofsomething

    I think a nativity scene without the words would be okay if it were accompanied by other myths from around the season. It would interesting and educational.

    That being said, though I don’t agree with the teacher’s beliefs or pushing them on others, I can respect that he thinks we should fight against laws we think are wrong. Obviously, I wouldn’t want his views to win, but saying, ‘Well, it’s the law,’ or ‘It’s in the Constitution’ only goes so far if it’s on your side. I wouldn’t respect a person for sitting back and taking it were it not something we should do. That would be like having a law that says kill your neighbour if (s)he walks out of his/her house Tuesday morning from 6 to 8. I mean, would you do that just ’cause it’s the law? Without people that fight against laws, women wouldn’t be able to vote, we’d still have slaves, — hell, this country wouldn’t have even been founded.

    Though I like using the law when it’s on my side, I think it’s silly that most people would do almost exactly what this guy is doing were the roles reversed. I have a hard time believing most of you would sit back and say, ‘Well, it’s the law, so it’s okay.’ You’d probably stand up and fight it, right? That’s what this guy’s doing.

    This was a bit of a dick thing to say though: ‘“Personally, I’m a Christian and if I’m going to offend somebody, I’d rather offend the non-believer — if it’s legal to do so,” he said.’

    Anyway, I wish someone would come to a compromise (nativity scene + other myths, or something) instead of jumping to court and spending a tonne of money. Lawsuits and that are getting annoying. I know some people don’t listen, but I wonder if this guy might. If not, then, well, here we go again, I guess.

    • Demonhype

      That’s the problem.  They want, as was said above, to use their majority status as a bully pulpit.  There is no compromise because they want only their own views to be represented and, by that, receive government endorsement.  See how pissed they get when someone in a private establishment actually has the gall to include non-Christians with the phrase “Happy Holidays” when, in their minds, the correct salutation is “Merry CHRISTmas (you filthy heathen/godless criminal)”.  They would not tolerate having other views shown, and the best you could hope for is that they would technically allow other views to be shown but come up with a system that effectively makes sure that only Christian views actually get shown or seen.

      I understand the sentiment about opposing an unjust law, but this isn’t one of those cases.  In this case, it’s more like his religion says to kill your neighbor if they leave the house on Tuesday between 6 and 8 and he feels his religious views should take precedence over the neighbor’s right to live and the laws against murder.  We have a law that demands equal protections and representation for all, including the minority, and prohibits anyone from claiming government endorsement or funding for their sectarian views.  That is fair in a completely objective sense.  In their minds, however, it is not fair because they don’t know the meaning of “objective” and view everything from the subjective stance of “I’m right and I should be able to use any means necessary to enforce that truth on everyone around me, and if I’m in the majority I should be allowed to use that status to bully the minority and they should just suck it up and STFU.  If I’m not allowed to do this, to exercise the part of my religion that says I can use any means necessary to force my views on others, then it’s not fair.”

      If the law said “No one, anywhere, ever, is allowed to express their religious views.  Not in your private business, not in your private homes, not on your private lawns, and the full force of the law will be exerted upon anyone who dares place a nativity scene within sight of other citizens,” well, that would be different.  Then he’d be bravely fighting an unjust law and I think most people here would be right there with him on that.  Right now, he’s fighting a just law because his kind is so sociopathic that they thing it’s unjust or unfair when they can’t have everything for themselves.

      • alphabetsoupofsomething

        P1: I know and agree.

        P2&3: Oh, I’m not saying he’s right or wrong, just that I can respect people trying to change laws and not following laws they think are wrong. The example I gave was just an exaggeration, really. The guy is clearly being a dick by the end, and my problem isn’t that we’re saying he’s a dick, my problem is that so many people in the atheist movement say, ‘Well, it’s the law, blah, blah, blah,’ as if that actually means anything. As I said, if the position were reversed, we wouldn’t sit back and take it just ’cause ‘it’s the law’. — I do, however, have a problem with the ‘any means necessary’, which, you’re right, they do often use, but that’s not what was mentioned in the blog entry, which is why I didn’t address it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MUIGGGWVZRPI7DRSO4ENSPPHCQ ConnorO

    Horus (c. 3000 BCE)Osiris (c. 3000 BCE)Attis of Phrygia (c.1400 BCE)Krishna (c. 1400 BCE)Zoroaster/Zarathustra (c. 1000 BCE)Mithra of Persia (c. 600 BCE)Heracles (c. 800 BCE)Dionysus (c. 186 BCE)Tammuz (c. 400 BCE)Adonis (c. 200 BCE)HermesBacchusPrometheus

    I hate this list. It’s a classic internet meme, uncritically scrawled verbatim all over the atheist web by would-be debunkers who usually couldn’t tell you a single other thing about Tammuz or Attis other than “OMG, Jeebus stolen LOL”

    I have no idea where it came from originally (Freke and Gandy maybe?) but the dates are a particularly stupid touch: for instance, Dionysus (c. 186 BCE)? The freaking Mycaenean Greeks had Dionysius traditions. That’s the Bronze Age, folks. The date is significant to Dionysius as far as I can tell only in the most tangential way: the Roman Senate tried to outlaw the Bacchanalia that year. And while people who know nothing about classical mythology other than they know they hate Jeebus and love them some stupid lists presume that Bacchus was just some kind of copy (OMG!) of Dionysius, the more complicated fact is that all of these identifications are problematic and are the result of syncretism within ancient cultures. Bacchus had deep roots as the personification of wine in Italian culture, and there were significant differences in the Roman and Greek conceptions of the divinities.

    Suffice it to say that most of these figures were in no meaningful sense considered to be born on December 25th. The Winter solstice is around then, of course, and ancient pagan leanings toward monotheism usually centered on the sun as the manifestation of the supreme god of whom all other divinities were aspects. So naturally any figure that enjoyed prominence as the central divine figure in such a system became identified with the sun and could be said to be “born” on or around the solstice.

    Christmas is bunk and all, for a million reasons. But for the love of FSM can we please stop uncritically reproducing this ridiculous list?

  • Edmond

    Let’s see Jesus’ birth certificate!

    • Anonymous

      I’ve been saying this since 2008.  Long-form, too.

  • Sue Blue

    You would think that if J.C.’s birthday was so bloody important that we have to devote not only a day but an entire season to it, Old Man Yahweh would have made sure that the writers of the New Testament actually jotted down the date.  The Jews had lots of well-documented holidays they could have used as a reference point.  Why doesn’t the bible say something like “verily, on the third day of Passover, at the time of the slaying of the she-goats in the third hour after sunrise, the Messiah was born, etc., etc., yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.”  Instead we get vague and contradictory tales from different authors, so I guess it wasn’t that big a deal.  Besides, I would think that Yahweh might get somewhat offended that the date of a pagan orgy (Saturnalia) is being used as a stand-in for the virgin birth.  Self-professed Baby-Jesus Defenders everywhere might in fact be pissing him off royally!  Ever think of that, Jerry Noble?  Huh?  

    Well?  

  • Ndonnan

    i think good on him,happy birthday Jesus,how controversial,and why should he “give a shit” if some kids dont follow Christ,why would they be offended? if other groups want to say “happy hanuka”,go for it. athiest put up billboards to rubbish other peoples beliefs,now that should be banned

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      “That should be banned”? Banned by what, laws that favor one opinion and ban contradicting opinions?  Ndonnan, you are being very naive.  If whatever country you live in ends up  where one view or another can be outlawed, then your view will eventually be outlawed too. You won’t be free to think, believe and worship as you wish, you’ll think, believe and worship as you’re told, or face whatever penalty the law prescribes. Whoever is in power at any given time will be dictating what the permitted opinions and beliefs are.

      Keeping government free from promoting religion protects YOUR freedom to believe what you choose, to disbelieve what you choose, and to express your opinion. But in order to enjoy that freedom, you must be willing to support the freedom of people to express the opposite opinion. We are all free or none of us are free.

      Keep government out of religion, and keep religion out of government. When they mix, it’s a horrific mess. Read the history of Europe for examples.

  • Amelia

    I think what bothers me is the tenor of his statement “We celebrate Jesus’ birthday” as though everyone was a Christian and there was no possible way that anyone could have any beliefs other than his, and that he should have the right to promote his super-religion to children.


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