People of Collins want decorations to stay despite complaint

COLLINS, Miss. (WHLT) – In Collins, hundreds crowded Main Street Tuesday night singing hymns and chanting.

Before Tuesday night’s board of aldermen meeting, Downtown Collins quickly began to feel like a church.

“Everybody is welcomed here, said Vickie Mooney of Collins. “We love everybody but if you are offended by the way that we do things then you can just leave.”

Hundreds of people crowded the street to speak out against a complaint the city received from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, an organization that according to their website is committed to the separation of church and state.

FFRF sent Collins a letter last week about these religious structures, which are in one of the city-owned parks.

Some stay up all year round, others just for Christmas. However, the organization believes all of them are unconstitutional and unwelcoming to non-Christians.

“All they have to do is go through the park, not notice those figures and say well that’s a silly old man standing in water or a man carrying a cross on his shoulder, said Dot Donovan of Collins.

Dozens of townspeople spoke during the public forum. All wanted to leave the figures up.

“We hope that the show of support will just resonate,” said Dennis Campbell of Collins.

We spoke with an attorney from the foundation, Elizabeth Cavell. She said it doesn’t matter how many people are fine with the statue of Jesus carrying a cross, they will wait for the city to respond to their complaint and move forward. She said the city has an obligation to remain separated from religion.

“No plans,” Mayor  V.O. Smith said. “I told them last Friday do not take anything down in the park.”

Mayor  V. O. Smith said he doesn’t have plans to take the Christian symbols down.

In fact, he had city workers put up Christmas decorations early this year to make a statement.

“It really set a fire under us to do all we can to keep this park operating, he said.”

We’re told none of the displays in the park were bought with city money. The mayor says local families made donations to the chamber of commerce over 12 years over. And that’s how long they’ve been up.

The mayor also said he has been speaking with attorneys just in case the foundation sues the city.

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