A nativity that stood in the Omaha, Nebraska Capitol building was removed Friday so an atheist display celebrating the separation of church and state could take its place on Monday. The atheist display will remain up through the week of Christmas.
The atheist group, the Lincoln Atheists, have called the week a “Reason This Season” celebration that will last through Dec. 26, when the display will be taken down, KETV reports.
“Our goal is simply to educate the public on the importance of maintaining our secular government without deference to any religion, so that our government can represent everyone, equally,” the Lincoln Atheists said in a statement.
The group is also asking for donations to cover the costs of the setup.
A nativity which stood in the capitol through Christmas last year, and was up in December of this year, was taken down Friday to make room for the atheist display, which will feature a small model church and model capitol building with a large wall between them to symbolize the separation of church and state.
The Christian legal group, The Thomas More Society, started sponsoring the nativity last year, which raised questions about a possible violation of the Establishment Clause. This year, though, the Lincoln Atheists group preempted the Christians by reserving all the available space in August. When the Thomas More Society went to reserve space for the nativity, the week of Christmas was already taken by the atheist group.
“They have proved our point that all speech is welcome, except Christian,” Martin Cannon, an attorney with the Thomas More Society in Omaha, which sponsors the Nativity scene, told the Journal Star. “We would have shared our space with them, but they are not willing to do the same.”
Nativities across the country are under attack from atheist groups. An atheist group sent a letter to a Mississippi courthouse threatening to sue over a nativity on public property, but the local government has defied the threat and kept the nativity.
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