Fight brewing over nativity scene

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It's a sign of the holidays, but critics say it's a sign of discrimination against other religions. Now a neighborhood is embroiled in a bitter battle.

That nativity scene in dispute is in New Territory in Fort Bend County. It's not sitting well with everyone living there.

Opponents say the nativity scene alienates other religions. They also say the scene is on government property and should not be there. The homeowners' association says it's not on government property and they're not going to take it down.

Holiday displays are decorated on the fronts of dozens of neighborhoods in New Territory, but a nativity scene has some non-Christian people offended.

"We represent Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Jews," said Seth Riklin, an opponent to the nativity scene. "Anyone who is not of the Christian faith is relegated to second class citizenship"

Opponents of the nativity scene say they want it taken down because they believe it alienates other religions.

"Relegated to the back of the bus because they're not of the Christian faith," said Riklin.

But the homeowners' association says that is not the case. They say the display is inclusive of all walks of life.

"Establish religions that respect each other's rights and promote love, harmony and peace," said Homeowners' Association President Bart Hatfield.

They held a meeting Tuesday night to discuss the issue and voted to include other religious symbols at the nativity scene if requested by other residents.

"So there is no discrimination against other religions," said Hatfield.

"I don't think it's meant to offend or inflame anybody or to leave anybody out," said Joann Carlson, who supports the scene.

The homeowners' association says it is within its legal right to keep the scene there. They will be holding meetings in January and February to determine how and when to put up these holiday scenes.

Opponents of the nativity scene say, if necessary, they'll take this to court to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.
(Copyright © 2005, KTRK-TV)

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