- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A Chicago-based group will set up a Nativity scene inside the Nebraska Capitol this week, drawing criticism from those who say such displays amount to an unconstitutional state endorsement of a religion.

Capitol administrator Bob Ripley told the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1wG7Akv ) that the Thomas More Society applied and received permission to set up the display in the building’s rotunda. It will be up from Thursday to Dec. 26.

“The Capitol is not a religious building per se. We’re open to all citizens of all faiths,” he said.

Tom Brejcha, the nonprofit’s president and chief attorney, said in a news release the display represents constitutionally protected free speech and expression of religious faith by residents in a public forum.

But state Sen. Ernie Chambers said he thinks the display pushes a particular religious view.

“Except for the fact that I am a man who believes in using legal processes to address inappropriate use of state facilities, I would dismantle it and remove it myself,” he said.

Chambers said the society couldn’t do anything if he did so because they have no right to bring it to the Capitol and no property interest in the building, but acknowledged “there are different and better ways perhaps to do it.”

The Thomas More Society has provided legal counsel for placing Nativity scenes in public places in 21 states, including capitols in Illinois, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Rhode Island and Texas.

A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Nebraska chapter said his organization hasn’t received any complaints. A spokesman for Gov. Dave Heineman directed questions to Ripley, who declined to comment further.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com


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