Nativity scene, anti-religion sign coexist in Arlington Heights park

  • Last year, the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee pushed for permission to place a Nativity scene in North School Park in Arlington Heights. The Freedom From Religion Foundation responded with a sign opposing religion, at right. Both are back this year.

    Last year, the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee pushed for permission to place a Nativity scene in North School Park in Arlington Heights. The Freedom From Religion Foundation responded with a sign opposing religion, at right. Both are back this year. JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • This sign, erected by the park district, serves as a disclaimer regarding a Nativity scene and a sign opposing religion in North School Park in Arlington Heights.

    This sign, erected by the park district, serves as a disclaimer regarding a Nativity scene and a sign opposing religion in North School Park in Arlington Heights. JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • A sign proclaiming an anti-religion view has been erected near the Nativity scene in North School Park in Arlington Heights.

    A sign proclaiming an anti-religion view has been erected near the Nativity scene in North School Park in Arlington Heights. JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • A sign proclaiming an anti-religion view has been erected near the Nativity scene by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in North School Park in Arlington Heights.

    A sign proclaiming an anti-religion view has been erected near the Nativity scene by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in North School Park in Arlington Heights. JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/23/2013 7:35 AM

A year after controversy in Arlington Heights about whether to allow a Nativity scene on public property, both the Nativity and a sign with views against religion are coexisting -- mainly peacefully -- in North School Park this holiday season.

The Nativity scene, paid for by Jim Finnegan, chairman of the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee, sits next to a sign from the Freedom From Religion Foundation reading, in part, "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

 

The two displays were approved by the Arlington Heights Park District under its new policy for petitioners, including that they must clearly post that the displays are not paid for or supported by the park district.

Legally, if the park district allows one religious display on its property, it cannot exclude others, officials have said, but some people still aren't happy.

"To me that's intolerant and demeaning to put next to a holy symbol," Gregory Novak, said of the anti-religion sign.

The former Arlington Heights resident, who visited the Nativity recently with his family, said he is not against having multiple displays of varying beliefs in the park, but that the wording on the Freedom From Religion sign offended him.

"What was supposed to be about tolerance has become intolerance," he said. "Why is it OK to attack and demean our beliefs or say our viewpoint is wrong?"

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Leaders of the group that put up the sign disagree.

"A manger scene has a doctrinal, theological message. It depicts the supposed birth of the savior. We don't believe that is correct," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has similar ones around the country.

She said her group does not proactively put up signs but acts in response to Nativity scenes. "To leave that manger scene unchallenged at a public park sends a message of endorsement from the government," she said. "For those of us who are not Christian or not religious, walking by a manger scene on public property feels offensive."

Park District Executive Director Steve Scholten said that both the Nativity and the Freedom From Religion sign are the same as last year. He said the new policy, which will also allow public displays in Memorial Park near Memorial Day next year, has been helpful.

"The two groups complied with all the timing factors, they installed the displays and they will take them out within the next week or so," he said. "The policy accomplished some of the management that we needed to institute."

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Attention: We are experiencing technical difficulties with our Facebook Comments module at this time. Comments will remain disabled until we are able to resolve the problem. We apologize for the interruption. We invite you to engage with our content and talk with other commenters on our Daily Herald Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DailyHeraldFans/. Thank you.