The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local News

December 23, 2008

Library keeping Nativity despite complaint

Atheist demands removal as Christians protest

ELWOOD — The baby Jesus stays.

City library officials were choosing to keep a Nativity scene on display inside the library until an attorney or official from the American Civil Liberties Union forces them to take it down.

Elwood Public Library Director Jamie Scott said she received a complaint about the religious display on Friday from a patron who said he was an atheist.

“He demanded that it be taken down by (Monday),” Scott said on Tuesday. Scott would not release the name of the patron.

Scott said the patron threatened to set up a protest in front of the library branch on Monday if the scene was not taken down.

The threat was quickly leaked onto an Elwood Internet forum, prompting area religious leaders into action.

Becky Capps, a parishioner at Joy Christian Church, immediately notified her pastor, James Stout, and helped organize a protest to keep the display intact.

On Monday, Capps said, she joined Stout and around 30 other Elwood residents at the library, where they hoped to protect the Nativity scene.

A note of support for the Nativity was signed by more than 90 area residents, Scott said.

Scott said she spoke with a lawyer regarding the matter and said she was given two choices in handling the complaint.

“We could take it down immediately,” Scott said, “or we could wait to see if we received anything from a lawyer or the ACLU that it was a violation.”

The unidentified patron never held a protest on Monday, but Scott said a library employee thought she saw the man enter briefly to check on whether the Nativity was taken down.

Although the Nativity scene is a symbol of Christianity, Scott said she was simply trying to decorate the library branch for Christmas and did not intend to endorse Christianity.

“The way I feel about it is this is something that was donated to the library and has been a part of our holiday season decorations for almost 30 years,” she said. “We were not trying to promote any religion.”

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