Cottondale Community Responds to Ban of Nativity Scene at School
View at WJHG News Channel 7
How sad…they school doesn’t want to do it, but they’re being threatened with lawsuits they can’t afford by bullies who want to squash anyone’s free expression that they’re “offended” by.
The Nativity scene has been part of Cottondale Elementary School’s Christmas display for many years, but it is absent this year.
The school’s administration declined to put it out this year, sparking some criticism by those who believe it should be on display along with the secular pieces like Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman.
Cottondale Elementary School Principal Brenda Jones had spoken this week with Channel 7 in Panama City about the matter, but declined Thursday to speak with the Jackson County Floridan . In her interview with the television station, Jones cited a visit by an attorney which included a discussion about the need for schools to follow the laws demanding separation of church and state.
There is NO law on the books prohibiting religious holiday displays on public property. If there were, the school could be slapped with a ticket or fine. Instead, activist lawyers from groups of anti-religious bullies abuse the legal system to threaten costly lawsuits, forcing people to censor themselves and give up their 1st Amendment rights simply because they can’t afford to go to court to defend them.
This is intimidation and a gross misuse of our judicial system, pure and simple.
Former Jackson County School Board member Betty Duffee said situations like this make her glad she retired last year.
“I don’t’ think she had a choice,” Duffee said of Jones’ decision. “There are people in the community that are threatening to sue the school board (over separation of church and state issues), and it costs a tremendous amount of money to defend something you know you will lose; there’s no doubt about that. It’s not that we’re against it (the Nativity scene); it’s just that federal law prohibits it. An attorney for the school board and the superintendent came and talked to us all and to a group of ministers later that day in a separate meeting, and they made it very clear. We must observe the separation of church and state.
“It’s a tragic thing as far as I’m concerned, but the school system is not in any kind of shape to fight a lawsuit they know that they’re going to lose…I know it’s hard to see this happen, because it feels like we’re losing a freedom, but this is the state of affairs in this nation.”
The tragedy is that the school doesn’t understand their rights or how to defend them. Legal groups like Liberty Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the American Center for Law and Justice stand ready to defend against exactly these kinds of 1st Amendment assaults.
Ray Windham has been the General Manager of Branning’s Garage across the street from Cottondale Elementary School for years.
The shop has never decorated for Christmas in the past, but this year, Windham said they would. He told us he had decided to proudly display the nativity scene Cottondale Elementary used to set up on their lawn, on his.
Not only that, Windham said he’s been encouraging other business owners to display nativity scenes on their property as well. It’s all part of a growing community effort to keep Christ in ‘Christ’mas- and in the schools.
Wednesday, community member Vicki Barber spoke with News Channel 7 about what she described as her “fire and calling” to bring God back into the schools. Barber, with the help of members from her church, Piney Grove Baptist in Cottondale, has planned to help set up the nativity on Windham’s property Friday, directly facing the school.