Watchdog group wants Ohio village to remove nativity scene

Posted at 10:58 AM, Dec 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-06 10:58:35-05

A nativity scene in an Ohio village has drawn opposition from a national watchdog group that says the display violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of separation of church and state and wants it removed.

The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation says St. Bernard in suburban Cincinnati could face legal action if the display isn't removed.

Foundation officials say in a statement that they recently sent a letter to St. Bernard saying it cannot continue to display a nativity scene on village property and asking for a written response after it is removed.

Michael Peck, the village's law director, said the village administration understands concerns by groups like the foundation, but has "no intention of removing our nativity scene."

It is merely part of a larger display including other secular symbols of Christmas, and the village is confident it doesn't violate the Constitution, Peck said.

The nativity scene in front of City Hall depicts the figure of an infant Jesus lying in a manger and surrounded by other figures, including Mary and Joseph, according to the foundation.

The letter from foundation's attorney Sam Grover to St. Bernard's law director says the nativity scene "conveys a preference for religion over non-religion and for Christianity above all other faiths."

"The City Hall building should accommodate everyone within St. Bernard, not just those in the Christian majority," the foundation's co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, said in the group's statement.

A middle school in southern Ohio removed a portrait of Jesus from school grounds in 2013 in a settlement of a lawsuit filed against the school by the foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. The groups charged that the portrait illegally promoted religion in a public school.