A town in Arkansas has decided to continue with a decades-long tradition of displaying a nativity scene in a local park despite threats of lawsuits.
"I want to sincerely, personally thank Eureka Springs Mayor, Butch Berry who just notified me in writing that he has changed his mind and WILL NOT require us to remove our Nativity Scene out of the city's Basin Park," said Randall Christy, the executive director of the Great Passion Play, the group that owns the nativity display, wrote on Facebook this week of his fight to keep a nativity scene on display this year.
Last week, the city of Eureka Springs requested officials with the Great Passion Play - a 4,000 seat outdoor amphitheater where plays and other events are held - to remove the display from Basin Spring Park. Christy said he started to inquire why and found the request came down to threats of a lawsuit, according to KY3.
"That upset me, and I wanted to know why," The Great Passion Play’s Randall Christy told the outlet. "(The mayor) said, ‘there was a threat of a lawsuit, and his city attorney just advised him to have it removed.’ And you know I didn’t comply with that, and I said, ‘No, we’re not going to do that. We don’t believe that one citizen’s opinion can force us to remove a nativity that’s been here for decades.’"
Following the call with the mayor, Christy became vocal on social media about the matter, KAIT 8 reported.
By Monday, Christy said he received a call from the mayor saying the display could remain in the park.
"The city of Eureka Springs is going to issue a permit for the Nativity scene to remain, along with other secular displays, in the bandshell in Basin Spring Park in Eureka Springs," Eureka Springs Mayor Butch Berry said in a statement posted to Facebook this week.
He added that the city "is following its philosophy of being inclusive of all people and all beliefs" and that city officials "appreciate the emails and phone calls received from all over the country."
Christy wrote on Facebook that he and the mayor "will STAND TOGETHER to fight this potential lawsuit. We stand together to keep Christ and the Nativity in Christmas in Eureka Springs!!! I'm proud of Mayor Berry for making the right decision."
Berry told Fox News Digital on Wednesday that the "main concept we are trying to promote in Eureka Springs is that we want to be inclusive for all who come to Eureka Springs." He explained the town was the first in the state to have same-sex marriage and one of the first towns to establish an ordinance against LGBTQ discrimination.
We "want all citizens to have the right to express their secular view during this holiday season. I was told by attorneys we either had to all views or none at all. So instead of not having any secular activites, my decision was we should allow others to express all secular views and not to discriminate against one," he said in an emailed comment.
"I am sorry that Mr. Christy and his followers felt that we were being anti Christmas, that is not true," he continued. Berry said he loves Christmas and wants "to make sure that we are including all who want to celebrate this holiday season without discrimination."
The display had been set up in the Basin Spring Park for 70 years until 2019, after the city received threats of lawsuits demanding the display be removed from public property, KNWA reported. Christy told the outlet that people complained the city was trying to establish a religion by allowing the display on public grounds.
This was the first year since 2019 the display was set up in the park.
Christy said the mayor’s decision to issue the display a permit is due to him hearing "the cry of the people."
"People have just been pouring out — posting pictures, saying, ‘don’t take it down, don’t take it down,’ and the mayor has heard the cry of the people," said Christy, according to KAIT 8.