Organization Displays “Secular” Nativity Scene at Capitol

By Mason J. McCoy

Recently a Christian Nativity Scene was erected inside the Iowa State Capitol building. This has been met with opposition from several groups saying that the display and Governor Branstad’s address at the unveiling violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) designed and funded a “secular nativity scene” display to be placed in the Capitol. It was unveiled Saturday morning at 11. A representative of the FFRF spoke about why there is a need for such a display. The FFRF is a church-state separation advocacy group. They feel, along with several other groups such as the Eastern Iowa Atheists and the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers, that the Christian nativity scene is an encroachment of state sponsored religion.

Saturday morning, a group of about 20 people gathered for the unveiling of the display which features the Bill of Rights playing the part of the baby Jesus surrounded by the Statue of Liberty, George Washington, and other historical figures. A sign to the left of the scene explains that they are honoring the Bill of Rights, which was adopted on December 15th, 1791. 2016 is the 225-year anniversary. They had been prepared for opposition to the secular display, as was the case in Oklahoma with the display of the 10 Commandments in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol. No such opposition appeared. Saturday morning’s unveiling ended up being a quiet, respectful ceremony.

Governor Branstad or Lieutenant Governor Reynolds were not in attendance.

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