Christians are pushing back in one Ohio city after an atheist group from out of state threatened to sue if city officials allowed a nativity scene to be placed on the courthouse lawn during the Christmas season.
The Record-Courier reports the nativity scene, which was displayed on the lawn of the Ravenna Courthouse last year, drew several complaints, including a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, (FFRF) an organization based in Madison, Wis., who has threatened and/or filed lawsuits against several municipalities across the country over the separation of church and state.
Ravenna Mayor Frank Seman announced during the Thanksgiving weekend that no nativity scene would be displayed at the courthouse this year. He said he didn't want the city to be dragged into court.
Approximately 40 to 50 members of Ravenna's Bethel Baptist Church responded Saturday night by protesting the mayor's decision along the city's Main Street, holding signs and singing Christmas carols and hymns together.
"We would like to have the Nativity scene come back on the courthouse lawn," David Ballert, the church's pastor told The Record-Courier. "I'm here with my people because we care very much about the Lord Jesus Christ ... I believe Ravenna is a great town. I believe that a town deserves to have Jesus Christ in it."
Ballert told the newspaper his members would return to carry on the protest on Dec. 22. The group's goal is to get permission from "the powers that be" to set up the nativity scene at the courthouse.
The mayor told the newspaper the letter from the atheist organization was not the reason for nixing the display this year. He said local residents also called him about the display, reminding him that he needed to uphold the Constitution. They also were concerned the city might get sued, he added.
The newspaper noted that as the church members wished passersby and the occupants of vehicles "Merry Christmas" they received friendly replies and car horns honking driver's approval.
"Everybody driving by seems to be saying 'hello' to us and 'Merry Christmas' ... I have no doubt the people are behind what we're doing here," Ballert said.
Meanwhile, the mayor of another Ohio town says he will continue to allow a nativity scene at the city square, even though he received a similar letter from the FFRF several years ago.
"I posed the question to the law director how we should respond," Streetsboro Mayor Glenn Broska told The Christian Post. "As long as it's part of a much wider-ranging display, which ours is, we're OK. We didn't use any municipal funding for it."
The mayor said the city would accept holiday religious displays from any faith group that would like to have one on the square.
"We have a menorah now, and if there are other religions out there that would like to have something displayed, as long as they purchase it, we would be glad to put it up," he said.
As CBN News reported, the City of Dover, Ohio recently removed its nativity scene along with a Ten Commandments monument earlier this month after the FFRF threatened a lawsuit. Both displays in Dover were moved from city property to private property.