My father wrote up his thoughts on the behavior of many of the locals with regards to the AHA’s lawsuit against Baxter County for discriminating against non-Christians:
I find myself bemused by the number of timeless—or timeworn, as the case may be—-themes I see being played out in our little local nativity on the square kerfluffle.
As with David and Goliah or the 300 Spartans against the hordes of Xerxes at Thermopylae, we have the small and the few standing against the large and the many. Mountain Home has over 80 churches listed in the yellow pages with no temples, mosques, or freethinker groups. The closest we have which is out is the Unitarian church, and in November it had its windows shot out and received a threatening letter after announcing that everyone was welcome at their church regardless of race or sexual orientation. Mountain Home has a strong Tea Party presence and the latest election was a red tide of strictly Republican winners. Nonetheless, a small, secret group of freethinkers is taking them on.
Another theme is dirty politics, Good Ole Boy government, and back room deals being exposed to light; of corruption being rooted out. As a transparently childish ruse to skirt the law in the face of lawsuit threats from the American Humanist Association, the local county judge and quorum court got together with the Chamber of commerce and cooked up a deal to “lease” to the chamber the same area of the courthouse square to continue erecting the same overwhelmingly sectarian display featuring the dame nativity in the same place. The County, which had been claiming ownership of the creche for the 15-20 years it had been going up, generously “gave” it to the chamber to erect in the same spot. They did this so they could claim it was no longer a church/state separation violation since it was being erected by a private party on leased ground. They even put up a sign saying so, and that the county didn’t endorse any particular religion. Of course, the “lease” was never advertised for bids, there was no competition, and the county violated regulations for disposal of county equipment when it “gave” the creche to the chamber. Other people have called and asked to rent space and been rejected summarily, even though there are no written criteria for who gets chosen. The entire reeking underhanded dishonest dealing is small town politics at its slimiest……by the people who claim the moral high ground.
Another theme weaving its way through this tapsestry is that of patriotic Americans standing up for equal civil rights against the fanatical religious zealots who would deny them those rights. After requesting and being denied permission to add a Menorah and a “Happy Winter Solstice” banner to the square, the group has gone to the courts, which so often is the only way to protect civil rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority. We have seen it in cases such as Loving v. Virginia and United States v. Windsor. The religionists in power locally have absolutely no interest in the equal rights to freedom of speech for anyone who isn’t in lockstep with their preferred religious belief. This narrative has a tinge of the Rosa Parks story: people who insist on equality and are not content to sit at the back of the bus, and who are quietly willing to stand up for their equal rights as American citizens.
A couple more themes that tie in are that “The end justifies the means” and that “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Having had everything their own way for so long and having such an overwelming majority of fundamentalists in the area, the local power structure arrogantly assumend it could get away with anything regardless of legality or fairness.The dishonesty and the arrogant shenanigans by the local power structure shows an assumption of privilege and a total disregard for the rights of anyone they deem to be “other”.
People who respect the established jurisprudence of the Constitutional separation of church and state are going toe to toe with those theocrats who are determined to use the government to promote their favorite religion. We see this theme constantly being played out in counties, towns, and courthouses across the nation. Baxter County, Arkansas, is one small battlefield in a nationwide war. There is, quite simply, a Christian demographic that will not rest until it has silenced every voice that doesn’t promote it and it has forced every citizen to bend a knee to its god.
Other themes that make an appearance are the societal story of tribalism and xenophobia…… The mindless fear of the “other”. It is illustrative of these that many of the comments in the local newspaper screech that the people wanting equal access can’t be from here and need to go back where they came from. So many talk about what “we” want while being totally tone deaf to the fact that “we” includes the people who demand equal access.