Nativity scene gets OK at Capitol

December 21, 2010 

Washington state officials have approved the display of a Nativity scene with life-size figures on the Capitol Campus grounds east of the Legislative Building.

The display, requested by Hunter M. Abell of Bothell, is to include 10 life-size figures including Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Abell’s application says he plans to cover an area 50 by 50 feet with the display from Wednesday until Dec. 29.

“There is no space limitation. The policy allows for GA to consider ‘time, place and manner,’” Department of General Administration spokesman Steve Valandra said Monday after the request was approved. “Since the only other display that’s up is the atheist ‘tree of knowledge,’ there’s no space issue.”

The atheists’ display is a tree lit by lights near the Tivoli Fountain. An Olympia Jewish group earlier had displayed an electrically lit menorah. The Nativity will be placed on the other side of a sidewalk on the south side of the fountain.

No problems have been reported about the exhibits this year or last year. But in 2008, a policy that allowed indoor displays in the Capitol Rotunda led to controversy, and the Governor’s Office fielded thousands of calls spurred by a national conservative television commentator who was angry the First Amendment allowed an atheist display near a Nativity.

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