Casper Nativity Scenes OK, Despite Ten Commandment Absence
Nativity scenes are a common sight in public parks in Casper around Christmas time. There have been many questions about this since the City of Casper decided to remove the monument of The Ten Commandments out of City Park in downtown Casper in 2003. Why are Nativity scenes allowed while the monument was taken out?
In 2003 the Casper City Council voted to remove the monument of The Ten Commandments from City Park to relocate it in a new monument park. This stemmed from the controversy surrounding the Matthew Shepard case, in which Rev. Fred Phelps, an anti-gay activist, proposed an anti-gay monument to be placed in the park. According to federal rule, a city that displays religious monuments in a city park must also allow other religious monuments, even if unpopular. It was not a light decision considering the monument had been in place for over 40 years. By removing the monument, the City Council saved Casper from having an anti-gay, hate promoting monument in the heart of the city. It’s a shame it had to come down to that, but was necessary in keeping Phelps from defacing our community.
Nativity scenes represent the birth of Christ on December 25th. Being that this is a religious display, the “Reindeer Rule” comes into play. The “Reindeer Rule” states that any religious display on public property can exist as long as it’s balanced by secular displays, to throw out any notion of a state favoring religion. As long as Rudolf or Frosty the Snowman are near by, the Nativity scenes are acceptable where they are. The separation of church and state has a lot of grey areas when it comes to Christmas. This “Reindeer Rule” allows everybody to celebrate together without getting tangled up in red tape. Luckily we don’t have civil rights or religious activists on our doorstep demanding the change of all Christmas decorations. Casper embraces the holiday season as a community and celebrates as a community, regardless of background or belief.
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