The Christmas display in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, had been put up every year since 1950, but the mayor of the town ordered that it be removed this year after he said a resident threatened to sue the municipality, claiming it violated his First Amendment rights.
But the display will now be allowed to stay, provided the group that had put it up pays a $25 fee for a permit, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
“That’s all you’ve got to do nowadays to get city governments to cave in,” Randall Christy, who had organized the Christmas display, told the outlet. “You just have to threaten a lawsuit. They’re going to scramble and avoid their court costs even though they’ve got an attorney on file. If it’s all about Jesus, it’s not even worth a few hundred dollars of court costs. That’s how I feel.”
Eureka Springs Mayor Robert Berry reportedly told Christy that he had to remove the display, but Christy refused. News of the city’s attempt to remove the display circulated on social media, which inundated the town’s Facebook page with comments expressing outrage at the move.
Eventually, Berry acquiesced and permitted the display, provided Christy paid the permit fee.
“We’re going to have to be inclusive and allow everybody and all things in relation to Christmas season to be able to be displayed. It’s kind of being inclusive and not discriminating against one religion or another. And I think that’s personally what Christmas is all about — being inclusive,” Berry reportedly said.
The city is now drafting a resolution that will delineate the city’s policy for such displays in the future, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.