I don't know when this was put up, but a very permant looking structure is displaying a Christian Nativity scene on Fountain Square. I took the above picture today just before 1 PM. I could find no signage indicating who put it up, who paid for the very significant (close to permanent) structure, or why it is even there. A Menorah was up during Chanukah, which all stems back to preventing the KKK from putting up a cross on Fountain Square. In prior years Christian groups got together and put up a cross, preventing the KKK from doing so. That cross was very much non-permanet, like the Menorah. This year it appears to be to be different, unless I don't remember it being there last year.
This display is a more prominent place than the Menorah, which was placed behind the tree. This display is very up front on the Vine Street side of the Square. I really personally believe all of these displays violate the Constitution, but courts have ruled that the short term displays can be permitted. What I find most objectionable here is that this Nativity scene was not constructed as a short term display. A landscaper was likley used to build it. The display can be removed, and I am sure it will be, but at whose expense? That is the other problem, who paid for it? I think it should be the policy of the city to have any religious display accompanied with a reasonable notice, preferable a sign, stated who got the permit and who paid for the display.
If any city or 3CDC money or services where used and not reimbursed, then favoritism and thus a violation of the law would have occurred.
I will be waiting people to chime in here and say "What the big deal." Well, I have the legal right to pay to have a statue of Zeus (or phallic symbol or a wood carved Homer Simpson) displayed on Fountain Square on my religious holiday. I have to the get the right permit, clear the size, safety, and insurance concerns with the Fountain Square management. If I can't, which I would bet there are things that would be blocked, and I don't mean just the phallic symbol, then that is a "big deal." When religion or certain religions get favored over other religions or the lack of religion by the government or its representative, then a violation of the 1st Amendment has occurred. If the constitution and the 1st Amendment specifically aren't a "big deal," I would then bet you voted for Bush.
UPDATE: Bill Donabedian, Manager of Fountain Square, has confirmed the following:
- A private organization put up the Nativity Scene
- There is a sign stating such.
- This was done last year as well.
- The display will be removed after the 25th.