PARAGOULD, Ark. (AP) - The superintendent of the Greene County Tech school system allowed a counselor to decorate a bulletin board with a scene depicting the birth of Jesus, saying if someone has to be offended, it shouldn't be the town's Christian majority.
Superintendent Jerry Noble said he had received two complaints about the nativity scene and, acting on the advice of the school district's lawyer, told Greene County Tech Primary School counselor Kay Williams to remove it. After a public outcry, Noble told Williams last weekend she could put the scene back up, which Williams did Monday.
"I think it's due to the fact that most of us are Christians and this is a Christian community," Noble told the Paragould Daily Press.
"We just decided if we are going to offend someone, we would rather not offend those who have Christian beliefs."
"We do live in the Bible Belt," he said.
District lawyer Donn Mixon said he advised Noble to take the decorations down, believing a court could deem them improper if it found that Williams put them up for religious purposes.
"I gave the opinion that, yes, I believe, based upon what I was told about it, that, if challenged, it could well violate the First Amendment," Mixon told the newspaper.
While the nativity scene was down, several pupils posted their own artwork, some of which was inscribed "Happy Birthday Jesus."
Noble acknowledged that disregarding Mixon's legal advice may have been unwise.
"We can't obligate taxpayer money to defend something just because of our personal beliefs," Noble said. "But, when the community feels strongly about it, then I guess we feel like we should go ahead and see what happens."
The superintendent said he did not have contact information for those who complained about the nativity scene.
Click the video for KAIT's Amanda Hanson's story.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)