An Illinois sheriff called freethinking Freedom From Religion Foundation representatives oppressors, and is vowing not to back down from their legal threats after they said the two nativity scenes erected at the local courthouse last month were unconstitutional. The sheriff just penned an excoriating letter to the activists proclaiming he will not bow to "bullies."
The battle surfaced after one of the foundation's attorneys sent a letter to the Jefferson County Board to complain about Sheriff Travis Allen's decision to put the Christian scenes on display along with other holiday elements at the courthouse. The foundation is a national nonprofit whose staff and members believe in nontheism, and are dedicated to the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
Allen rejects the charge that the nativities are unconstitutional. "We're not putting crosses at the courthouse. We're not putting Bible verses up. This is a Christmas display," Allen told WPSD-TV.
"What has our country become when we can't put a nativity scene out in celebration of Christmas because we're worried about offending somebody That's embarrassing!"
Allen said he added the nativities to help celebrate the Christmas spirit, noting there used to be a "big Christmas celebration" in the past and that many citizens had requested a new display be put out; so he complied, reports The Blaze.
Foundation lawyer Ryan Jayne maintains the county courthouse lawn is not the right spot to be having religious debates. Jayne told WPSD-TV, alleging in a Jan. 22 letter to local officials that Allen "promotes and endorses the Christian religious aspects of Christmas" - something the attorney said is unconstitutional.
In a Jan. 27 response letter, Allen accused the Freedom From Religion Foundation of including "half-truths" in its letter, and claimed the organization did not include photo evidence of the other non-Christian elements that were part of the holiday display.
"Your letter was full of half truths and I think we both know the court of law does not make decisions in half truths," Allen wrote. "You did not even take a picture of the inflatable penguin, which I am sure you are also offended by."
In his letter, he also asked the foundation about its reported 700 members in Illinois. "I would like to know how many reside in Jefferson County," he wrote. "I am not sure I would be bragging about 700 members in a state that has almost 13 million residents. We have almost 10 times as many people on our Facebook page."
Allen said he was the foundation attorney sent the letter to the County Board because they thought they could bully them into complying with their demands. "The thing is, in Jefferson County, we don't really like bullies, and we are not very good at bowing down to organizations. I actually only bow to one man, but you don't believe in him anyway," he included in the letter.
Allen and the Freedom From Religion Foundation representatives previously clashed over the presence of "In God We Trust" on squad cars.