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Group Launches Rival Nativity Scene At California Capitol Featuring Founding Fathers

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - For the first time in 40 years, the Capitol has a nativity scene once again. But just days before Christmas, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has put up its own version of the nativity scene on the other side of the building.

"I'm offended a little bit by it because I'm a Christian, but if this person believes that strongly about that, what can I say to them?" said Rory Kaufman.

It's hard not to stop when you see it for the first time on the south steps of the state Capitol building. The cutout features three of the founding fathers: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. They are standing next to the statue of Liberty and watching over the Bill of Rights on a bed of hay.

"Glad to see them talking about the Bill of Rights," said Chuck Donaldson. "I mean that's part of our heritage too!"

The scene was assembly by the Freedom from Religion Foundation in response to the traditional nativity scene on the north steps. A conservative religious freedom group called the Thomas Moore Society brought the traditional scene back to the Capitol this week after being gone for 40 years.

"Religious symbols really don't belong on government property," said Janet Thew, Secretary for the California Chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. "There's a growing number of us who are not theistic and we need to be represented equally."

"We feel that there should be a strong separation between church and state," said John Lucas, a member of the organization's California Board of Directors. "You should absolutely believe in whatever you believe in. That's what makes our country great."

He told CBS 13 the ideal situation is a Capitol free from depictions of any kind.

"We probably have a little bit more freedom to have a discussion than some other states," Lucas said.

But as a Christian, Kaufman told CBS 13 the re-imagined nativity scene isn't something he's comfortable with, especially during the Christmas season.

"You still have to be equal, inclusive," he said. "Don't mean I have to like it and I don't like it.

The national organization has installed similar scenes in other state, some of which have been vandalized. Thew and Lucas are hopeful that kind of destruction doesn't happen in Sacramento.

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