AP NEWS

Nativity scene won’t be moving back to courthouse lawn

December 17, 2019 GMT
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This Dec. 10, 2019, photo shows a relocated nativity scene in Centerville, Iowa. Many residents of the small southern Iowa city have been angered by a decision to move a nativity scene from the courthouse lawn to outside a nearby church. They are demanding officials return the display to the lawn, but a national atheist group says if the nativity is moved back they will demand equal access for atheists, Satanists, wiccans and other faiths. (Kyle Ocker/The Daily Iowegian via AP)
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This Dec. 10, 2019, photo shows a relocated nativity scene in Centerville, Iowa. Many residents of the small southern Iowa city have been angered by a decision to move a nativity scene from the courthouse lawn to outside a nearby church. They are demanding officials return the display to the lawn, but a national atheist group says if the nativity is moved back they will demand equal access for atheists, Satanists, wiccans and other faiths. (Kyle Ocker/The Daily Iowegian via AP)

CENTERVILLE, Iowa (AP) — A Nativity scene removed from a county courthouse lawn in southern Iowa won’t be returning.

The scene was erected Nov. 18 outside the Appanoose County Courthouse in Centerville, but some residents complained that a religious display should not be placed on government property.

City Administrator Jason Fraser had approved the display’s location but told organizers that it needed to be moved before Thanksgiving. It took until Dec. 9 before enough volunteers could be gathered to move the display off the lawn and to a new spot about two blocks south.

The county owns the building and the land underneath; the city owns the lawn.

The Daily Iowegian reported that at Monday’s City Council meeting, several speakers sharply criticized the scene’s removal and asked that it be moved back.

But Fraser told those in attendance that the Nativity scene location was just a discussion item on the council agenda, so the council could’t take a vote on letting the scene return to the courthouse lawn.

“I think it’s safe to say for the next nine days, the Nativity scene is going to stay where it is,” Mayor Mike O’Connor said.

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The story has been corrected to show that Mayor Mike O’Connor said the scene will stay where it is for the next nine days, not City Administrator Jason Fraser.