The city of Rainbow City says The Nativity scene that has been displayed for years at the Rainbow City Municipal Building is legal and will remain up according to City Attorney Jim Turnbach.
The city received a letter via email Tuesday from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis. The organization opposes such Christmas displays on public property, and told Rainbow City it is illegal, based on a Supreme Court ruling, for a city to have a holiday display consisting solely of a Nativity scene, singling out and showing preference for one religion over others.
The display was taken down briefly Thursday morning by city workers, but was put back up.
Rainbow City Mayor Terry John Calhoun has declined comment and directed questions to Turnbach.
Turnbach said he has made a “cursory review” of the foundation’s letter.
Turnbach said that While the Freedom From Religion Foundation states correctly law applicable to religious displays, they are incorrectly applying those cases to the situation in Rainbow City. He said Rainbow City does not believe that the Christmas display on city property is in violation of any case law.
In the letter to Rainbow City, foundation attorney Andrew Seidel asked that it do as other cities have done, and remove the scene from government land and auction or donate it.
The letter requested a response in writing for steps the city would be taking, so the organization can notify the local resident who contacted them about the Nativity scene.
The foundation has sued or asked a number of governments to take down Christian-themed decorations. Turnbach said he would respond to the foundation and didn’t anticipate his response being anything other than calling its claim a “misapplication of case law to Rainbow City.”
Turnbach said he wants to be through with his research before making a response, and the display will stay up while he completes that research. He said that could be as early as next week, and he plans to respond before Christmas.