Nativity Controversy Subject Of Special Meeting
Oskaloosa, Iowa – The Oskaloosa City Council will meet on Wednesday starting at 5 pm in order to discuss the future use of the downtown square.
Their agenda states, “Discussion and possible action on establishing a policy for decorations and event use in the city square.” Link to the agenda is here – http://www.oskaloosaiowa.org/archives/39/Special%20Meeting%20_RN241.pdf
Oskaloosa City Manager says that the discussion will include what types of decorations can be on the square, what types of events can utilize the square, such as political events or allowing events like the cancer walk.
“The Council’s going to talk about what’s the policy for the square. Obviously the nativity scene has been the impetus that has caused this meeting to take place sooner than later,” says Schrock.
Schrock says there are legal obligations based upon Supreme Court decisions “as to what we can and can’t do.”
“I don’t think anybody here at the city’s trying to be insensitive to anybody. We understand people want to be proud of their beliefs, and everybody should be able to have that right to say what they want to say and practice what ever religion,” Schrock said.
The discussion is set to take place after concerns, about the display of the Nativity, were made public from some members of the community. One of those who disagrees with the display of the nativity is Aiyanna Looney.
In a letter to Oskaloosa City Manager Michael Schrock, she expressed her concerns in the following letter:
“A nativity has been placed on the North West corner in a city park, which is also Oskaloosa’s city square. This park is public / government property and no other religious signs or statues are present, such as a Menorah, Wiccan Pentagram, or Kwanzaa Kinara. This religious display does not reflect the religious diversity found in Oskaloosa and Mahaska County, and is a clear violation of the constitutional principle of church-state separation. Senior courts have repeatedly ruled that religious symbols, like the nativity scene located in the heart of Oskaloosa, cannot be constitutionally displayed by themselves on public property.
The City of Oskaloosa, as a local government, has a duty to protect religious liberty, not infringe on it. My rights have been harmed by this religious display on government property and I am livid. This town knowingly discriminates against non-Christians and this nativity is a symptom of systematic intolerance of religious diversity found in this area.
The use of government property to promote Christianity as superior to other faiths, religions and secularism is abhorrent. The City of Oskaloosa needs to take responsibility for this discriminatory display and remove the nativity or create an exhibit that is representative of everyone who lives in Oskaloosa and Mahaska County.”