- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - The American Humanist Association has announced it will file a lawsuit against Harrison County over its refusal to remove a Nativity scene from a courthouse.

The Clarion-Ledger (https://on.thec-l.com/1Zbn6Bv ) reports the Washington-based organization made the announcement Tuesday after it had sent a letter to county officials last week, asking them to remove the display.

The Harrison County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to keep the Nativity scene, which is erected by county employees each year.

Executive director American Humanist Association Roy Speckhardt says it was disappointing the board decided to “not recognize the diversity of beliefs and waste the taxpayers’ money.”

Board attorney Tim Holleman says he believes the county is complying with the law, adding that the county won’t interfere with county employees’ expression of their religious faith.



“The county will not interfere with the county employees’ expression of their religious faith or with any other faith or non-faith employees who desire to celebrate their holiday in a manner that does not interfere with county business,” Holleman said.

The Supreme Court, in a pair of decisions in the 1980s, ruled that Nativity scenes may appear on public property, but only if they also contained secular symbols of Christmas, like Santa Claus and reindeer, or were accompanied by symbols from other religions.

Earlier this year, the American Humanist Association prevailed in a lawsuit against Baxter County, Arkansas, over a Nativity scene on the lawn of that county’s courthouse.

A judge said the display violated the First Amendment; however, in that case, the county had denied a request from residents to include displays from other religions near the Nativity.

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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