April 2016 Church & State - April 2015

Ark. County Pays Fees To Nativity Plaintiffs

  AU admin

Baxter County, Ark., officials must pay more than $52,000 in legal fees to attorneys who challenged its refusal to allow a local humanist group to erect a holiday display.

U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks ruled that attorneys affiliated with the American Humanist Association (AHA) are entitled to the fees, reported the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The AHA had represented a local tattoo artist, Dessa Blackthorn, who wished to add a “Happy Solstice” display to the Baxter County Courthouse’s Christian Nativity scene. County Judge Mickey Pendergrass rejected her proposal in 2013 and 2014.

Brooks ruled in her favor in November. The county must “create a public forum on the courthouse grounds for a seasonal display open to all faiths as well as of no faith at all, without discrimination on the basis of viewpoint,” he found.

Pendergrass subsequently announced that the county would no longer host a nativity display on public property. (American Humanist Association and Dessa Blackthorn v. Baxter County, Arkansas and Mickey Pendergrass)

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