DIXON – A Nativity scene on the lawn of the Old Lee County Courthouse was called into question last year.
In November, the Lee County Board will vote on a resolution setting guidelines for courthouse displays, which mainly focuses on the size and location of displays and not the content.
Board member John Nicholson, chairman of the Properties Committee, said the county could either ban all displays on the courthouse lawn or allow all displays with guidelines.
“We want to design it so people can display things on the courthouse lawn because it is public property,” he said. “But we want to set parameters.”
Among those parameters are size, position, and to make sure displays don’t get in the way of maintenance and landscaping or negatively affect the integrity of the lawn, Nicholson said.
As part of the resolution, which was on the board’s Oct. 15 agenda but was moved to November, residents wanting to put a display on the courthouse lawn would have to apply for a permit.
According to a draft of the resolution:
“The decision to issue a permit for use of the courthouse grounds will be made on a non-discriminatory basis and will not be based on the religious or political content of the activity, display or exhibit.”
A vote on the resolution was pushed to November because the most recent draft didn’t have some permit details finalized, including the fee, how long it is valid, how far in advance an application must be submitted, and the square footage allowed per display.
Nicholson said there were “very few” people objecting to the Nativity scene last year, but in accordance with the First Amendment, anyone should be allowed to apply for a permit for a display.
“You can say, ‘You can’t put the Nativity scene up. You can’t put the menorah up. You can’t put anything up,’” Nicholson said. “[We] didn’t want to do that.”
The resolution, which would take effect immediately if approved in November, will ensure that the parameters for a Nativity scene would be the same for any other display – religious or not – he said.
The Lee County Board next meets at 9 a.m. Nov. 19 on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon.
Go to www.LeeCountyIL.com or call 815-288-5676 for an agenda or more information.