ELLWOOD CITY (KDKA) — A fight is brewing over a nativity scene in Ellwood City.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, located in Wisconsin, is threatening legal action here, but the people of Ellwood City aren’t backing down from their 50-year-old tradition.
KDKA’s Marty Griffin has been told the anti-religion group is headed to Ellwood City in busloads. They’re expected to arrive on Friday.
For now, the nativity scene is sitting in the basement of the Ellwood City Municipal Building covered in garbage bags.
Standing over it is the town’s defiant mayor Anthony Court.
“It’s a belief that we have dating back probably 50 or 60 years,” he told KDKA-TV. “It’s a loveable tradition and we’re not going to be bullied.”
The crèche will be set up Friday morning on a patch of grass outside City Hall – regardless of the possible lawsuits, court-ordered injunctions or busloads of protestors.
“I can tell you this,” Court said. “I [will] not back down. If they come that’s fine. If they don’t come, that’s also fine, but I can tell you this – the nativity scene will be going up.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has targeted Ellwood City and its crèche, claiming the placement at City Hall violates the Constitution.
“We believe it is impermissible, it’s improper, not what the founders had in mind to have nativity displays in front of city halls and county courthouses,” Annie Gaylor, a spokesperson for the foundation, said.
Just down the street is Pastor Cynthia Antinossi. She runs Dayspring Harvest Ministries, a faith-based ministry where she plans to fight any protest with prayer.
“For a whole year we’ve been praying and we’ve been walking around the city – we walked to the municipal building and we’ve just been God’s will and God’s presence to be brought forth in our city,” she said.
In this mostly Catholic, mostly Italian town, you’re hard-pressed to find an atheist, agnostic or anyone not committee to the crèche at City Hall.
“Why should any outside source interfere with what’s going on in a small town in western Pennsylvania?” Ralph Chiapetta said.