Atheists Pressure Iowa Town to Remove Nativity from Courthouse Lawn

Michael Foust | Contributor | Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Atheists Pressure Iowa Town to Remove Nativity from Courthouse Lawn

Atheists Pressure Iowa Town to Remove Nativity from Courthouse Lawn

Residents of an Iowa town packed a city council meeting Monday to speak out against the removal of a Nativity scene off the courthouse lawn, although their opposition didn’t change the stance of council members.

The Nativity was placed on the Appanoose County Courthouse lawn in Centerville Nov. 18 but was moved to a private lot Dec. 9 following a complaint, according to KCCI

Most of the residents who were present wanted the Nativity placed back on the courthouse lawn.

“I would die for my God!” Centerville resident Kathy Perry said.

Perry blamed Centerville officials.  

“I feel like the council members that were involved with this, that did have a say, were cowards,” she said.

More than 1,000 people signed a petition supporting the Nativity’s return to the courthouse lawn, according to KCCI.

But Centerville city council members said the Nativity would stay on private property.

“We do not rule by majority, because if there was one person that lived in Centerville, then we have to represent them as well, even if it does not agree with your particular (view),” said council member Jay Dillard.

Beau Reeves, a self-described atheist, supported the council’s action.

“I shouldn't have to see baby Jesus on the courthouse lawn,” Reeves said.

Justin Scott, the state director for the American Atheists organization, told the Associated Press that if the council returned the Nativity to the lawn, “We will, in fact, demand equal access to the same property.”

Tony Angran, pastor of the Solid Rock Church of God, launched the petition and asked the council members to return the Nativity. 

“I am personally appalled that the very reason for the season be taken out of the very heart of this city and moved elsewhere,” Angran said on the church’s Facebook page. 

Meanwhile, Iowan Jacob Hall, writing at The Iowa Standard, suggested a change in leadership may be necessary. 

“If those in leadership do not want to take tough positions or prefer to hide behind a recommendation from a city administrator, then perhaps a leadership role isn’t meant for them,” Hall wrote. “It seems the council and the mayor have forgotten who answers to who in this scenario. It will be interesting to see if time heals this divide or if residents of Centerville rise up and challenge the status quo at the election box.


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Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog,

Photo courtesy: Chris Sowder/Unsplash

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.