Because their city hall had a Nativity scene out front, the Orange County Atheists of Texas decided it was only fair to request a display of their own. It was a simple banner that said “Happy Holidays” (regardless of what anyone believed):
Turns out that peace coexistence was out of the question. Instead of letting the banner go up, perhaps giving the atheists a sort of symbolic victory, city officials decided they’d rather just take down the Nativity.
The City is denying the banner request. Based on this request, the City reviewed current case law. Supreme Court decisions have tried to address this question in an array of decisions but there is not a clear case that gives affirmative direction to displaying the Nativity scene. This makes it difficult to formulate a policy for Christmas decorations on City property. Based on this and knowing that the Constitution makes a distinction between church and state, the City will be removing the Nativity scene to avoid the legal costs associated with defending the placement of the Nativity scene and focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
The city didn’t have to deny the banner request. A lot of local governments have figured out a policy that works for everyone, whether it’s closing off the space to any and all religious displays or creating an open forum for everyone. The entire explanation focuses on why the city can’t just have the Nativity and nothing else. They’re going scorched earth on this one.
Either way, neutrality is respected, but the atheist group is still peeved that their banner request was rejected:
We asked for equality and the city of Orange chose to give it to us by removing the nativity scene instead of allowing our display alongside the the other displays. This was not the result we were hoping for, but we are glad that the City of Orange has decided to treat all citizens equally by keeping the publicly owned property neutral when it comes to religious displays. Government neutrality in religious matters is of the utmost importance in protecting all of our religious freedoms. No single viewpoint should be given preference over another. This can be accomplished by allowing all citizens equal access to place their religious displays on city property, or by not allowing any displays. The city of Orange has chosen not to create a public forum for religious displays and we will respect their decision in this matter.
This may just be a temporary decision since the city commissioners are meeting today to discuss the all or none policy, but the point is: none of this needs to happen. There was no reason to reject the atheist banned in the first place, and I promise you Christians will be quick to complain about how atheists, not the Orange government, forced the Nativity scene to come down.