- Associated Press - Sunday, December 13, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - City-owned snowplows in Sioux Falls are again displaying some religious symbolism, but the debate sparked last year by the artwork of some local students seems to have quieted down.

A disclaimer affixed to the snowplows explaining the city doesn’t endorse the religious messages appears to have created an apathetic harmony among both sides of the First Amendment-fueled debate, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/1megOml ) reported.

Public and private school students in Sioux Falls decorate plow blades as part of an annual event, and some students have used the program as an opportunity to express their faith. Some of the blades this year include messages such as “One nation under God” and “God will clear a way,” while two parochial schools participating in the city’s Paint the Plows program last December decorated the blades with the words “Jesus Christ” and “Happy Birthday Jesus.”

The local secular group, Siouxland Freethinkers, complained about the artwork last winter saying that it violated the constitutional separation of church and state, prompting city officials to affix the disclaimer to the plows.

But while the debate has cooled, the president of the local group still has misgivings.

“If it was a plow mentioning Muhammad would you feel the same way?” Allen Larson said. “If it was a plow mentioning Hanukkah would you feel the same way?”

Larson said he wasn’t the president of the group last year and he doesn’t approve of religious symbolism. However, he said, the group decided that the debate over the plows would not be a priority this year.

Sioux Falls Lutheran School assistant principal Sarah Sailer said an important part of the education of her students is expressing their faith.

“I believe it’s one way they can share their artistic abilities, their creative abilities,” Sailer said. “Share a Gospel message, because that’s who we are.”

City officials decided to bring the disclaimer back this year because they believe it is an appropriate way to uphold the law without limiting student artwork, said assistant city attorney Diane Best.

“We have not received any complaints from any public interest groups,” Best said.


Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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