Nativity scene returns outside the Toledo, Iowa fire department... with two new additions
Instead of just promoting Christianity, the fire department is now also promoting Christianity
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I mentioned earlier in the week that the town of Toledo, Iowa had a Nativity scene outside the local fire department. It was clearly illegal. A government entity can’t be in the business of promoting Christianity and that’s all this was. It certainly wasn’t an open forum allowing anyone to apply for a display; it was nothing more than “tradition” catering to the predominantly Christian people in the community.
When atheist Justin Scott saw the display as he was driving through the area, he alerted the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and they sent the city a letter warning them about the legal problems this poses.
The solutions were straightforward: The city could remove the display entirely. They could modify it by including secular and non-Christian displays. Or they could create a fair system allowing anyone to apply to put up a display outside the fire department.
The only thing they couldn’t do was the one thing they were doing.
FFRF favored the removal of the display. Justin Scott preferred a modified version of it. And the people in the community demanded the promotion of Christianity and nothing else. The latter group included Mayor Brian Sokol, who dismissed FFRF’s warning by saying, “Unfortunately, it seems too many groups want to sue about anything” without acknowledging that FFRF was absolutely right.
Still, the town temporarily moved the display from the fire department to private property about a block away to avoid any repercussions.
At a contentious city council meeting earlier in the week, officials assured the public that they would be “meeting with their attorneys to see if there is a legal way to make the display acceptable at the fire station.” I predicted that their attorneys would say exactly what I was: FFRF is right. Change the display or get sued.
And would you look at this: The display is back outside the fire department… which two new additions.
There are now cutouts of Santa and a reindeer near the Baby Jesus…
See, everyone? It’s no longer just a promotion of the Christian faith. It’s a promotion of the Christian faith and the commercialization of the Christian faith.
Problem solved… I guess?
The truth is there’s no clear-cut case law that explains when a display goes from exclusive to inclusive, so the city can probably get away with this even though it’s clearly not allowing non-Christian groups to put up their displays in the same location. The addition of a “secular” symbol may give the city a shield against accusations that it’s violating the Establishment Clause.
Still, it’s almost funny that the online responses to the revised display appear to be universal praise from the same people who demanded nothing change. They’re glad the Nativity is back… even though the atheists technically won this battle.
They could have accepted this outcome from the beginning. Instead they whined and whined until they lost, and now they’re pretending they won.
The one person who comes out of this looking fantastic is Justin, who took the high road when he could easily have dropped a mic:
“I don’t believe there’s any ill intent by the city of Toledo,” Scott told Des Moines station KCCI-TV. “I think it was just something that was nice, it was a nice gesture by a nice family. They put it up and nobody bothered to notice that it was actually a constitutional violation.”
He’s kind to people who haven’t earned that respect. And they certainly won’t be thanking him for helping them out.
Side note: The right-wing Catholic League, which pays its president over $1 million a year to send out insane press releases claiming Catholics are being persecuted, sent out an insane press release daring FFRF to sue the city of Toledo… now.
… what Mayor Sokol has done [by modifying the display] is entirely constitutional. We contacted his office today pledging our support. We notified the mayor’s office that if FFRF wants to sue, and he is unable to access pro-bono counsel, we will pay the legal bills to defend him in court.
Why would FFRF sue the city after it’s already won?
And why won’t the Catholic League admit that, if there was a lawsuit and the city eventually lost, the group’s offer to “pay the legal bills” would not cover any financial damages a judge deemed fit? Paying bad lawyers to take up a bad case is meaningless if it’s a losing cause, and plenty of cities have been duped by conservative groups promising to cosplay as lawyers for free so they can fundraise off of it, then shifting their grift elsewhere after the cities lose their cases.
In any case, the Catholic League is also daring FFRF to sue over its Nativity display near Central Park in New York City: ”If FFRF wants a showdown over this issue, let them sue the Catholic League for erecting its nativity scene in Central Park.”
But the group freely admits New York City has an open forum where anyone can apply to put up a display. So why would FFRF sue over it?
Just utter nonsense from a group that doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.