• Town of Dallas forced to move nativity display

    By: Ken Lemon


    DALLAS, N.C. - The Town of Dallas moved its nativity display off town property following complaints from a national group.

    But the mayor plans to fight and get it back where it has been on display for the last 40 years.
    Last year someone spotted the display on the courthouse square and called the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
    The group sent letters warning the town board that it's against the law to have religious displays on public property.
    The nativity is now on private property for the first time, a block away from the courthouse, but the mayor said he wants it moved back next year.
    There are still penguins and snowmen at the courthouse square, but no Jesus, Mary or Joseph -- and that's what Barron Lee wanted to see there.
    "I look for it every year," Lee said.
    He and several people in Dallas became angry when they realized the nativity was moved because of the threat of a lawsuit.
    "What's Christmas without Jesus?" Jeff Thornburg, a resident, asked. "A nativity scene needs to be in Dallas."
    The mayor said he has been swamped with messages like that.
    "My phone has been ringing off the hook this morning. Phone has been ringing at town hall," said Mayor Rick Coleman.
    He said the Board of Aldermen reluctantly decided the nativity can't stay after exchanging several letters with the Freedom of Religion Foundation.

    "We are not giving up,” Coleman said. "We are exploring other possibilities."
    The town is asking for help from religious groups with access to attorneys.
    Eyewitness News spoke with the attorney from the foundation.

    "The government shouldn't be putting its stamp of approval behind one religious view of the legendary birth of Jesus," said Patrick Elliott, attorney for Freedom from Religion Foundation.
    The foundation has been successful at forcing other cities to move their nativity displays.
    He doesn't understand why people in Dallas want it at the courthouse square.
    "Why do they want their town government so involved in selecting what religion is true or false," Elliott said.

    "I don't know if they know what the meaning of Christmas is," Thornburg said.
    The attorney for the foundation would not reveal the identity of the person who complained to them because he didn't want that person to be targeted.

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