North Arkansas County Loses Lawsuit Challenging Nativity Display

Nov 12, 2015

The nativity scene at the Baxter County Courthouse last year, as documented by the American Humanist Association, which helped bring the lawsuit.

A federal judge has ruled that Baxter County in north Arkansas violated the Constitution by displaying a Nativity scene on the courthouse lawn in 2014.

Judge Timothy Brooks issued the ruling Thursday in a lawsuit brought by the American Humanist Association and Baxter County resident Dessa Blackthorn.

Blackthorn and the association filed the lawsuit last year saying the county should not allow a Nativity scene at the courthouse every December while denying requests for other displays on the property. The lawsuit claims County Judge Mickey Pendergrass denied requests for a "Happy Winter Solstice" banner and a menorah outside the courthouse.

Brooks ruled that Pendergrass must either stop placing any religious seasonal displays on the courthouse property or create a public forum allowing all religions and viewpoints to erect displays.