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MANGER CONTROVERSY: Nativity Scene Causing Buzz

Posted on: 5:22 pm, December 12, 2012, by , updated on: 09:06pm, December 12, 2012

There is controversy brewing in Oskaloosa, all because of Christmas decorations on the town square.

The city decorated their tree and put out a nativity scene last week, causing quite a buzz around town.

“I was looking around the park to see if there was any other religious or non-religious displays representing any Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Agnostics, and there wasn’t anything,” says Oskaloosa resident Aiyanna Looney.

Looney wrote a letter to the city asking them to take down the nativity scene or find a way to represent all religions, not just the Christian faith.

“This is about fairness, representing minority religions, and respecting everyone who lives in this town, even if there is one Muslim family and one Hindu family, they’re here and they deserve respect,” says Looney.

City council member Aaron Ver Steeg says the city took down the nativity scene and the city council will hold a special meeting to discuss the complaint. Ver Steeg says he wants the nativity scene to stay.

“I’m one of the believers that our religious freedoms are being taken away by a select few people, I think this person who complained is in the minority and I think I have to speak for the majority,” says Councilman Ver Steeg.

Ver Steeg will point to a Supreme Court ruling that states a nativity scene can be present in a city park as long as a secular item such as a Christmas tree is also displayed.

He also says he’s not opposed to displaying other religious items, such as a menorah, as long as the city council approves of it.

“I don’t have a problem with any religious belief, I do think there are some things that we may not want to have in the park, but that should go to the city, and be decided by the city council not just one person who is offended by it,” says Councilman Ver Steeg.

*** UPDATE*** The council ruled Wednesday night that the nativity could be put back up as long as it is accompanied by a secular decoration as well.

That ruling is called the Reindeer Rule, it was established by the Supreme Court in 1985.

The council could still decide to establish a policy for decorations in the city square at Mondays regularly scheduled meeting.

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