The Nativity scene that Mountain Home lawyer Rick Spencer has erected for years on the Baxter County Courthouse lawn as a tribute to his wife is back. The Baxter Bulletin reports.
it drew complaints last year from an organization saying it amounted to unconstitutional establishment of religion. This year, the Baxter County Quorum Court approved the display, but:
A public disclaimer will soon be added to say, “During the Holiday Season, the County of Baxter salutes liberty. Let these festive lights and times remind us that we are keepers of the flame of liberty and our legacy of freedom. Whatever your religion or beliefs, enjoy the holidays. This display is owned and erected by private citizens of Baxter County.”
Nice try. That privately owned ruse is the same thing various Arkansas officials used to defend the Nativity display at the Arkansas Capitol. The problem is, as established by a federal court ruling by rock-ribbed Republican Judge Susan Wright, is that if you let one display on your lawn during the holiday season, you have to allow others. If the Freethinkers want to set up one of their outhouse-looking solstic displays in Baxter County, the Quorum Court will have no choice but to say c’mon. Same for a Buddha, some Muslim material and so forth.
I got interested last year for precisely this reason, when the county resisted an atheist group’s reported desire to display something. The law is on their side if they choose to go to court. Rick Spencer told me last year he’d represent the county for free. His display has been going up for about 40 years.