FFRF’s Maine chapter fights for secular representation
The Freedom From Religion Foundation and its Maine chapter pushed back against a town’s attempts at religious favoritism in the public square.
When a nativity scene was erected on public ground in Bucksport, FFRF’s Maine chapter President Tom Waddell requested permission to also put up a banner providing secular representation for the town. Rather than allowing for both displays, local officials decided to initially take down the nativity display, which was reported on by multiple media outlets, including Fox News.
At a meeting on Dec. 15, where several residents spoke out in favor of the nativity exhibit, the Town Council decided to put the nativity scene back and establish a separate area near the town’s veterans memorial for all other displays.
This is constitutionally questionable, FFRF points out.
“While we appreciate the council’s attempt to find a resolution, this ‘solution’ only exacerbates the issue with displaying a nativity scene on public property,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard. “The best solution would be for the town to cease hosting religious displays on public property.”
The town’s decision to officially display a nativity scene while creating a separate forum for all non-Christian displays favors Christianity and needlessly alienates the nearly 30 percent of religiously unaffiliated citizens, alongside the 6 percent of minority religions.
FFRF has received a response from the town doubling down on its decision, making the state/church watchdog and its local activists even more determined to pursue the issue.
“We don’t care what people believe, it doesn’t matter,” Waddell states. “What we care about is when local governments show preference for one religion in particular.”
According to Waddell, FFRF’s Maine chapter had been putting up secular holiday displays for eight years, including in Bangor and Rockland. However, no town had put up as much trouble as Bucksport, he says.
FFRF’s display is currently on view at the veterans memorial. Bucksport plans to have a town hall meeting in early January to establish a set of rules for holiday displays in the future.