A Big Legal Win for the Baby Jesus in Florida

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Dec. 15, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Christmas Under Siege" segment tonight. As you know, the religious symbols of the federal holiday are under fire by secular forces all across the country. And in the Miami suburb of Bay Harbor Island (search), town officials there banned the nativity scene on public property while okaying a menorah for Hanukah.

So Sondra Snowdon, a resident, sued. And today, she won. Joining us now from Miami is Ms. Snowdon. And from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ed White, an attorney at the Thomas More Law Center (search), which assisted in the lawsuit.

All right, Ms. Snowdon, this has been going on for two years. And last year, you did a little hunger strike deal to bring attention to it. But what I don't understand is, when you went in and said to the town fathers of Bay Harbor Village—is that what it is—Bay Harbor Village?


O'REILLY: Bay Harbor Island. Look I'll buy - I'm going to buy a nativity scene. And all I want is to display it next to the menorah on the causeway. What did they say to you?

SNOWDON: Well, unfortunately, Bill, they didn't say very much. The town council got up and all walked out on me. They dismissed the meeting early in the middle of my speaking and my request and walked to the back of the room.

O'REILLY: Well, I don't - but I'm not getting this. See, I'm a logical guy. So you lived — I know —I used to teach high school in Miami. I know where you live.

SNOWDON: Oh, good.

O'REILLY: And it's a mostly Jewish area, but most Jewish people respect Christmas in my experience across the country. So you say, look, I'm going to buy it. You guys don't have to do anything, but let me display it next to the menorah in the spirit of harmony. And they walk away from you?

SNOWDON: They walked away. They adjourned the meeting. We had other residents that stood up, asking that we — they call a meeting before Christmas to allow Christians on the island, you know, to accept the nativity scene and to celebrate.

And not only our town council, but our commissioner from Miami-Dade County for Miami Beach, Sally Hainman, she refused over 40 faxes and phone calls to bring our town and our area together to intervene.

And so, Hanukah last year, I went on a hunger strike to try to ask my town council to come back and allow us before Christmas to celebrate and have a nativity scene. I thought the fast would last maybe three days and everybody would sit down for a pow-wow.

O'REILLY: No way. They wanted you to starve to death.

SNOWDON: Yes, 90 days.

O'REILLY: Anybody can tell...

SNOWDON: ...90 days, 90 days, 90 days...

O'REILLY: Has anybody in town, anybody in town given you an argument why they don't want the nativity scene? Anybody?

SNOWDON: No, I feel at this particular time it has been brought up several times before the town council. The last time was in October in which the town would not even make a motion to vote...

O'REILLY: All right.

SNOWDON: ...on allowing me the nativity scene. And I had had enough.

O'REILLY: OK, all right.

SNOWDON: I wanted to put Christ back into Christmas.

O'REILLY: I got it, I got it, I got it.

All right, counselor, so enter the Thomas More Law Center. And we encouraged people to go to your website, thomasMore.org. Why is that? What it is?


O'REILLY: You ought to know it, because you guys are doing this all across the country. Now certainly in your conversation, somebody must have said here's our objection to Ms. Snowdon's proposition, did they not?

WHITE: Yes. What they said at the town council meeting was the reason they did not want to put up the nativity scene, even though they had the local synagogue have its menorah on the public square, was they did not want to violate the establishment clause. That was the reason given.

What it comes down to is that they discriminated against Sondra, based upon her Christian viewpoint.

O'REILLY: Well, wait, wait, hold up. When they say that, do you do well, the menorah — did they say the menorah is a secular symbol?

WHITE: Right. The argument they made before the court was that the - - menorah is a secular symbol...

O'REILLY: OK, I got it.

WHITE: ...which it is not.

O'REILLY: Now - well, OK, but that's their argument. And then you bring it in. And what did the judge rule today?

WHITE: The judge ruled today that since the main square, Causeway Island, was allowed — the synagogue was allowed to put up its menorah there, that it was a designated public forum and that Sondra is allowed to put up her nativity scene on that same piece of property, just as the synagogue was.

O'REILLY: OK, but they only...

WHITE: And she has free speech rights of that.

O'REILLY: ...this year—you have to go through this in next year, too. This is one year only, right?

WHITE: No. Right now, we have a preliminary ruling for this year, but the case is proceeding. And we seek to have it permanently, yes.

O'REILLY: Right. So you got this year.

WHITE: And asked Sondra to put it up.

O'REILLY: All right.


O'REILLY: Now Sondra...


O'REILLY: ...anybody mad at you? Are they yelling at you? Do you have the nativity scene up already? Tell us what the status is.

SNOWDON: No, we have to answer the courts again about our nativity scene. And Ed White is working on my behalf doing that. We hope to have it up the first of next week.

But if you ask, yes, there's still discrimination. I have walked down the street and been spit on. I have threatening phone calls that have come into me. The chief of police and — our police in Bay Harbor have even refused to take my police reports on the threats that have come against me.

O'REILLY: All right.

SNOWDON: But at this particular time, I'm standing up for Jesus. And for those who don't understand what a nativity is or what the reason for the season really is, Bill, they can go to my Web site...

O'REILLY: So you're also standing up for your freedom...

SNOWDON: ...which is nativitystory.com.


SNOWDON: Nativitystory.com.

O'REILLY: All right, nativitystory.com. But they're also standing up for your freedom of expression as well. But Sondra, if anybody...

SNOWDON: Well, definitely this is a...

O'REILLY: Right, I got to go, Sondra.

SNOWDON: This is a constitutional right, yes.

O'REILLY: Right. I got to go, but if anybody gives you a hard time...

SNOWDON: Thank you, thank you, Bill.

O'REILLY: ...listen to me.

SNOWDON: Thank you.

O'REILLY: Listen to me, Sondra...


O'REILLY: ...if anybody gives you a hard time, call us immediately. Counselor, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

WHITE: Thank you.

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