A New Mexico mayor is seeing red over an atheist group’s warning to take down a long-standing nativity scene on city property, citing “seething anger” at the interference in local business and vowing to fight to the finish.
Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova said his town’s maintained a nativity scene for decades as part of local history, the Blaze reported. But now, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a letter warning the display must come down because it violates the separation of church and state principle due to its location on pubic property.
But Cordova said: That’s not going to happen.
“My first reaction was seething anger,” he said to KOAT-TV, speaking of the letter from the FFRF he received that cited a “concerned local resident” and his or her complaint about the display.
And then? He insisted the display was historical, not overtly religious.
“Our town was named Belen for a reason, because our founders wanted it to be named after Bethlehem and of course, what happened in Bethlehem was the birth of Christ, which is something we’ve expressed since our founding,” he said.
The FFRF said it doesn’t care – and it also doesn’t care the majority of residents in Belen want to keep the scene at its present city park location.
Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”
“It doesn’t matter how many people want that Christian symbol to stay up,” said FFRF staff attorney Andrew Seidel, in KOAT TV. “It’s still a Christian symbol and the government can’t display it on government property.”
He also said of the town’s name: “Even if Belen does indeed translate to Bethlehem, choosing the nativity scene to represent Bethlehem is an explicitly religious choice. This adopts Christian mythology to represent a name that itself is not inherently religious,” the Blaze reported.
He said the scene ought to be moved to private property or a church yard.
The News-Bulletin said the scene was put up in 1992.
Cordova said he expects a lawsuit to follow, but he’s not budging.
On “Fox & Friends” on Friday Cordova said: “If we look back to 1741 to when our town was founded … we have been representing the nativity and our tradition since that time … we’re simply not going to move it,” he said. “It’s going to stay where it is.”
He went on: “Well right now the city of Belen stands prepared to take this as far as we have to take it,” he said. “We have the backing of a number of organizations. … We know we are going to get the support we need to carry this through.”