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Jan 01 2013

City Refuses to Enforce Law on Nativity Scene

As the story goes, W.C. Fields was once caught reading a Bible. When asked why he would do that, he replied, “Looking for loopholes.” It seems those who insist on government endorsement of their religious views read the law the same way. Hemant reports on the situation in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, where the wingnuts found a loophole to get their nativity scene as close to public property as possible:

The current policy in Ellwood City — and it’s a good policy — is that no holiday displays are allowed on the premises at all, including Nativity scenes.

But local resident and Moose Lodge member Mike Parisi thought he found a loophole in the rules. Instead of bringing a Nativity scene inside the building, why not just put one on a trailer attached to a truck and park it outside the building? In fact, since you’re allowed to park in one spot for two hours, why not stay put for a couple of hours, then move down to the next spot? It would be completely legal.

Yes, it would. But they haven’t bothered to do that. They’ve just kept it parked in the same spot for two weeks now, illegally, and the city has done nothing about it because, one would assume, they’re happy it’s there. As Hemant says:

It’s just another example of city officials breaking the law in order to promote Christianity. No other religious or non-religious group ever gets that sort of treatment — and no other group wants that. All FFRF is asking for is for the city officials to follow its own laws: Don’t give one group special treatment just because its members pray to the same imaginary God as you.

One of the many ways that Christian hegemony protects itself.

15 comments

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  1. 1
    neonsequitur

    Maybe next year the Flying Spaghetti Monster Machine (Should I trademark that, or what?) ought to park right next to their illegal nativity display and wait for the tow truck, with a lawyer from the FRFF riding shotgun, and a camera crew in the back.

  2. 2
    ahcuah

    @neonsequitur’s suggestion also points out another difficulty, and one that Ed points out a lot: as things stand, nobody has standing to challenge this. As a general rule, cities have a pretty wide latitude over which laws to enforce, and how much (just think speed laws). So any lawsuit to force them to enforce the parking rule would fail.

    But the FSMM, if treated differently, would certainly give them standing, and could bring a defense of selective enforcement (which does sometimes work). Such a defense could also then legitimately bring up the First Amendment and the government favoring one kind of speech over another.

  3. 3
    Modusoperandi

    You can’t stop it. It’s Ellwood city. It’s on a mission from God.

    In any event, you’d figure that those who are willing to break the law to clearly define the boundary between their Tribe and the hated Other would put a little more work in to their display. Jesus only rates that?

  4. 4
    jayarrrr

    There has been a “mobile” nativity in the back of a pick-up truck for a decade in Lafayette, Indiana. Not because there’s a crying lack of such stuff in town, hell, the Mega-Jeebus Superstore out on the far east side has a drive-through VILLAGE with donkeys, Roman Centurions and everything…

  5. 5
    Jasper of Maine

    It’s probably important that this doesn’t become a trend, so it’ll need some special attention.

  6. 6
    grumpyoldfart

    When Christians think that parking a truck illegally is a big win – well they’ve already lost the battle.

  7. 7
    davidct

    You might have a problem since the FSMM might come under food violations rather than parking violations. Remember loopholes are all around us.

  8. 8
    John Hinkle

    If I lived in Ellwood City, I’d be really tempted to sneak onto the trailer at night and nail a dinosaur to the floor, perhaps behind the 3 kings. On another night, a kiddie chemistry set. Later, a model of a Mars probe. I don’t know, you think they’d get it?

  9. 9
    zmidponk

    neonsequitur:

    Maybe next year the Flying Spaghetti Monster Machine (Should I trademark that, or what?) ought to park right next to their illegal nativity display and wait for the tow truck, with a lawyer from the FRFF riding shotgun, and a camera crew in the back.

    Actually, I could be wrong, but it needn’t even be something with some kind of religious display, it simply needs to be a vehicle. As soon as they even so much as try to so much as put a parking ticket on that vehicle because the two hours are up, far less actually tow it, unless they have also put a parking ticket on the Nativity truck, boom, you’ve got a case – they’re treating the owner of that vehicle differently to the owner of the Nativity truck because they’re not overtly indicating they’re a fellow God-botherer.

  10. 10
    democommie

    “There has been a “mobile” nativity in the back of a pick-up truck for a decade in Lafayette, Indiana”

    I sorta like the idea of a creche in a doublewide. It just says, “…the common clay of the New West. You know. Morons.*”

    Reactionary assholes using religion for cover, wow, that’s never been done before.

    Parking a vehicle without a message that is oppositional to that conveyed by the Christmobile is pointless. Just don’t use a nice ride, it’s liable to get torched.

    And if there was an act of arson would that reduced the Christmobile to we be worrying about the tone of our conversation with the GODbothering fuckwads who would be screaming that atheists had done it because of OUR religion?

    H/T to Mr. Mel Brooks and his writers on “Blazing Saddles”.

  11. 11
    democommie

    Let’s try that, again.

    And if there was an act of arson that reduced the Christmobile to a flaming wreck would we be worrying about the tone of our conversation with the GODbothering fuckwads who would be screaming that atheists had done it because of OUR religion?

  12. 12
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    I’m thinking, park a large panel truck on either side of the display (and in front and back, if possible) with atheistic or FSM signs on the sides of the trucks. Push the issue.

  13. 13
    Crudely Wrott

    How ’bout Mr. Natural (from Zap Comics, remember?) with a wreath on his head and shaking some sleighbells? Just truckin’ ya know?

  14. 14
    brianwestley

    It’s Ellwood city. It’s on a mission from God.

    Modusoperandi, you live for puns, don’t you. I like that.

  15. 15
    John Horstman

    @2: It drives me crazy that discursive impacts on people aren’t considered grounds for standing. Think one could make the argument that any instance of anti-atheist discrimination is a function of Christian privilege, which is constructed and maintained by behaviors such as the non-enforcement of the law? Presumably one would need a judge who wasn’t an essentialist…

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