New City Ordinance Regulates Religious Displays in Omaha

November 9, 2000

Source: Omaha World-Herald

On November 9, 2000, the Omaha World-Herald reported that "the Papillion City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve an ordinance that would regulate the holiday displays in the [city] park...The new ordinance requires residents to apply for a permit between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. All requests must designate a Papillion resident as caretaker for the decoration, which can be displayed from Nov. 15 through Jan. 3 and fit inside a 20-foot-by-20-foot space...One of the factors prompting the council action was a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation about a Nativity scene in the park. The organization opposed a public display of a church symbol and asked for the right to put its own sign if the Nativity scene returned. In Madison, Wis., where the foundation is based, the organization erected a display stating, 'There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world.' Mike Schirber, Papillion city attorney, said the ordinance wouldn't necessarily restrict such a sign...But the ordinance's residency rule, a restriction on the number of displays to be allowed, and a preference given to displays erected in the past could prohibit the Freedom From Religion Foundation from putting up its sign. Although more than 20 people filled the meeting room for Wednesday's meeting, none addressed the council about the ordinance...The ordinance goes into effect immediately."