Baxter, Tennessee— After a long battle of back and forth name calling, sits-ins, and a news media frenzy the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation on Friday dropped a lawsuit against the small town of Baxter, the county seat of Smith County, Tennessee.
Complaints were first reported to the ACLU-TN on August 24th after Baxter County Courthouse employees erected a nativity and decorated a Christmas tree on the front lawn of the courthouse to begin Christmas celebrations.
“Religious displays in front of homes and churches are protected by the first amendment,” Harry Reasoning, ACLU-TN spokesman, was quoted in local papers in mid-September. “But the courthouse is a governmental property that cannot be used to promote religious beliefs.”
Courthouse clerk Brian Clampett was at the forefront of the battle in support of the display he helped create. In October, Clampett felt threatened by the “outsiders” and was quoted saying, “We don’t need no one coming in here telling us how to do things. I’m the one who made that star, and I hung it up there,” said Clampett pointing to a large mass of star-shaped aluminum suspended from a pin oak with 60lb test line approximately 20 feet above the manger.
Along the way, the battle of words turned physical. One scuffle near the 3 kings' camel holding pen, frightened one camel enough so that it bolted through the railings and remained loose for over three days during the week of Halloween.
But it has all come to an end. The ACLU-TN officially announced on Friday that their research has deemed the nativity scene as “secularized enough.” “After careful research, we have discovered that most scenes on the courthouse lawn can be described more accurately as American tradition than religious in nature,” said Reasoning.
In a written statement, Reasoning explained, “Most scenes have no Biblical support, including (1) Mary’s riding on a donkey, (2) the appearance of an innkeeper, (3) the use of a small feeding trough that is just the right size to hold a baby, (4) the idea that shepherds brought sheep out of the fields to see the baby, (5) the notion that there were only 3 men from the east, (6) the thought that the men from the east were kings wearing crowns, (7) the conclusion that the men from the east saw a baby in a manger, and (8) the speculation that Shrek was one of the wise men. Therefore, given that the scene is largely non-Biblical or religious in nature, we are dropping the lawsuit.”