Ellwood City Gears Up For Nativity Scene Battle

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.

Freedom From Religion Foundation
Ellwood City Borough Website

More from Marty Griffin
  • Dave

    When will liberals who hate religion understand that there is no such thing as Separation between Church and State?

    • Barbara Benchek

      Our country was founded upon Faith. In their writings, our forefathers wrote of their faith and incorporated it into their decisions for this country. Separation of church and state came about to ensure one church, i.e., Church of England, Catholic, Presbyterian, etc. did not come in to power. That is why they came to this country to escape the Church of England and to be able to worship as they please. A nativity is a symbol of the foundations of faith that laid this country. It is not advocating a specific church.

      To deny this is to deny our history. Is this not what happened in Russia under Lenin? Is this not what happened in Nazi Germany? Our lawmakers need to study American history, read the correspondence between our forefathers, perhaps then they would not allow the oppression that denies us the ability to celebrate not just our Faith but the foundations of this nation.

    • Tonya

      Just because a person doesn’t follow the religion you think they should follow doesn’t mean that they hate religion. And like it says…we live in a secular nation. Deal with it. That was the entire purpose of forming this country. So if you don’t think there should be separation of church and state, then there should be symbols and traditions of every religion represented. Not just christian ones. How arrogant to think that yours is the only religion of any importance. Facist. There’s no hope for this country if everyone thinks the way that you do. And FYI, the countries with the highest atheist/agnostic populations also have lower crime rates.

      • Dave

        Tonya, When did I ever mention a specific religion when I said liberals hate religion? I didn’t because liberals hate all religion. Also notice Tanya that I never once said that I am for one religion like Christianity. I am for every religion even those that don’t believe in a God.

        And please stop spreading the lies that we are a secular nation. Clearly that is not true and our founders were never in favor of a Separation between Church and State.

        All I am trying to say is that people like those in that organization hate all religion. Go to their site it is hate filled. That kind of garbage is sick and must be called out on.

      • Chris McCutcheon

        No one in Ellwood is trying to exclude other religions. I’m sure if a Jewish sect asked to put Hanukkah decorations up as well, the mayor would oblige. The problem is that the FFRF is doing exactly what you are accusing Christians of doing. They are marching into Ellwood and basically stating “our way of thinking is right, yours is wrong, so you need to take it down.” The problem is that we live in a Litigious society, where everyone feels that they can sue for anything that slightly offends them. Everyone has rights in this country, but your rights end when they infringe on the rights of other.

      • Joe


      • Andre Costello

        In God we trust was added to coins in 1864, and to paper currency in 1957. One nation under God was implemented in 1942. I’m not athiest, but I’m pretty sure the “separation of church and state” thing is very real, and was implemented by the founding fathers. As a matter of fact, I actually believe it was one of the bigger reasons the pilgrims came here in the first place.

      • Bill Russell

        Tonya, You are wrong on all counts.
        1. The Founding Fathers firmly believed in God and that our unalienable rights are endowed by our Creator. They simply believed no one should be forced to join a specific church to have economic or political freedom. The very rights that Thomas Jefferson wrote into the Declaration of Independence were base on the writings of Robert Bellermine (Catholic Cardinal and Saint). The ideas that we have rights from a power higher than the state, and that those who rule do so with the consent of the governed are ideas which are very unique to the Christian culture upon which this nation was founded. There is no basis in the Constitution for banning free expressions faith by a community.
        2. Countries that have the highest atheist/agnostic populations do not have the lowest crime rates. Its just that those countries lie about their crime rates and the worst of their crimes are committed by the state. Those states have murdered over 100 million people in the last century. (Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, and Communist China.)

      • Heather


        Have you researched WHY the First Amendment was added to the Constitution in the first place? If not, you should. It will give you a better understanding as to why.the Establishment clause was put in place.

        The Baptist’s should thank our founding fathers. Many of whom were deists at best.

    • Dominic M. Johnjulio

      ?? I’m a Democrat, but I by far do not hate religion. There are alot of Republicans out there like you that hate religion also.

    • ed-words

      Tell that to the judges. Are you a lawyer?

      As for hate, check out the mail sent to FFRF from Christians.

      • Dave

        Typical liberal response. Expose the hate and they try and turn it around and say “see see the other side is also sending them hateful things”. Stop, just stop it.

      • ed-words

        I was responding to Dave’s Nov 30 comment.

        It’s for you, Dave.

    • Republicans Hate this country

      Mr. President

      To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


      The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

      Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from prescribing even those occasional performances of devotion, practiced indeed by the Executive of another nation as the legal head of its church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

      I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association assurances of my high respect & esteem.

      (signed) Thomas Jefferson

      • Bill Russell

        I am a Republican and I love this Country!
        This letter is often cited as the reason for the banning of religious (especially Christian) symbols and prayers from public property. But if you further research Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, you will see that he was writing in response to their request for assistance. The Danbury Baptists were being discriminated against for their religion and were being denied representation in the Connecticut State government because of it. Jefferson was simply stating that there should be no established religion which would be required before someone could participate in the government (as was required in England). If he had such a problem with the practice of Religion on public property, then why did he continue to attend Sunday worship services in the US Capital Building?

  • Eric

    Michael Savage said it right “LIBERALISM IS A MENTAL DISORDER”

    • Roz

      I need some of what Dave is smoking…..I’m gussing he is hoping for a return to 1940’s Germany style of goverment.

      • Dave

        Clearly you do not know your history or you would not be calling me a Nazi. Hitler wanted one religion. Something I never even mentioned nor even remotely suggested. All I said is that the left is highjacking the Christmas season because it offends a few people. But then again those on the left like yourself don’t know that much about history anyway.

    • Dominic M. Johnjulio

      And a Republican is a disease.

  • tina f.

    doesn’t seem that this is a “liberals hate religion” thing… seems dumb that someone in a different state cares what happens here, but lets not counteract stupidity with more stupidity!

  • Joe

    Funny that extremism is being met with comments that are…well, extreme.

  • Chris McCutcheon

    The constitution states that The United States Government shall not officially recognize a religion as the religion of the country. This means that laws can not be passed that favor a religion or laws on morality based upon religion. It has NOTHING to do with a communities desire to place a nativity scene wherever they chose. Citizens have a right to exercise whatever religion they chose. To the FFRF, your rights end where ours begin!

  • David

    We are with you Ellwood! Most of the country is with you Ellwooid! It’s great to see Americans standing up for what made our counbtry great!! I think i;ll call your mayor to offer my help in case the busaloads of protesters have anyt ideas of becoming violent like the wal street prosters. I’m in!!!

    • Roz

      Before you make that call please take a grammer class.

      • Roz is a tool

        Hey Roz, learn to spell, you silly wise ass.

      • Barb

        LOL…Grammer….hilarious…if you have to ask why this is hilarious you might want to go check a dictionary.

    • Ryan

      What made this country ‘great’ was the rules and regulations. This is a BLATANT violation of Everson vs Board of Education.

  • Carrie

    My personal opinion… Let them put it wherever they want, but when I want to celebrate a Wiccan holiday in front of the same building, I better be allowed.

    • Alleyne

      More aptly, Carrie, Ellwood City better expand its budget because if the city owns and is maintaining decorations pertaining to the holiday for one religious group, they’re gonna need to buy and maintain decorations for the holidays of every religious group and make room for them on the steps of town hall.

  • David

    ps sorry about the errors in my previous comment. i’m sure that some leftie ,with nothing better to say in response, will have a real intelligent comment. pps i wonder why none of the allegedly highly intelligent left never mention’s hobbes? more specifically, his book State of nature.” because that is where we would most certainly where we will be if rhe lefties continue on their course of crazyness.
    furthermore, you want jobs back? get rid of the EPA. Do you honestly believe/think that anyone would rather do business outside the United States? There are reasons why businesses leave the reletive saftey comfort and stability of the United States.
    Please wake up and take back your birthright as Americans!

    • Carrie

      And this has what do do with the topic at hand?

  • Mike

    It’s about time someone stands up to the people of our city! Way to go mayor, we thank you!

  • David

    is a wiccan a drink?

    • Carrie

      I have a sneaky suspicion that you like to argue, especially with a comment such as that. Or you honestly have no idea what a Wiccan is, and should probably do a tad bit of research before commenting on anything that relates to religion.

  • RAY


    • Heather

      I am going ignore the “character attacks” which only serve to distract people from the main issue,

      If you would like to stop “wasting our tax dollars on garbage,” you might think about moving the Nativity to private property, where it belongs.

      Christians are not the only people to celebrate a custom during this time of the year. There are others too. I can name three right now. Pagans, Jews, and whatever religion or non-region Kwanza is.

  • David

    its called humor carrie. id that your real name, or did you change it cos you just loved the movie. let me guess, you were always picked last?? huh carrie… get lostr with the whole attitutde you circus freak. there’s my 1st amendment right at work carrie.

    • Carrie

      Seriously?? Are you 6 years old? Your reply is devoid of any substance, nor does it even qualify as a true response to what I posted. Instead you have decided to take the road of name calling, which while a 1st amendment right, makes you look like an uneducated person who lacks any real morals. Now… I am not personally calling you uneducated or moral-less, since I do not know you on a one to one basis. I am simply stating that your remark gives illusion to who you may be as an individual, and what beliefs you may use as your moral compass. While you may call it humor, those of us who choose to believe in the Wiccan religion take it to heart. Just as a Christian takes his/her religion to heart. My point in my initial post, was that when you try to cancel out a religion, you must also cancel out all forms of religion. Therefore, when you want to allow your religious beliefs to give you permit to display a Christian symbol, i.e. Nativity Scene, you must also allow for other religions to also show their personal religious symbols in the same fashion, without hatred being spewed at them. Now, when you can respond in a more adult manner, maybe, just maybe, this debate will take a turn for the better. Until then, if you wish to continue with your adolescent replies, and hateful remarks, I see no further point in responding to those callous comments you wish to post, Have a lovely evening!

      • harry owens

        Your a clown!

  • http://Facebook ashleigh wardman

    I am very well pleased with everyone coming together as a community an standing up for what we as a COMMUNITY believe in. We are doing what we have done for alot of years an nobody from out of town in going to change that. We arent getting buss loads an going crying to them over something we dont agree with boohoo cry me a river an get over it.

    • Teresa Zatkovic

      I am coming from out of town, New Middletown Oh, but I am coming to stand
      up for Ellwood City and Christianity. If that is there tradition and that is what the community wants, why are people from out of town coming here to tell them they can’t have their Nativity Scene? It is Ellwood City’s Municipal Bldg, it is there town.
      I suggest the people from Wisconsin go back home.

    • james

      Why is you name blue?

  • David

    lets help get this mayor voted into a higher office.

  • David

    way to be asheligh!! they are definitely in the minority. start voting for guys who talk like your mayor, and watch how fast americ gets back on track.

  • David

    i think a wiccan is a bad drink. right carrie??

  • David

    penn state undergrad. univ of az law. i’n pretty confident that i’m qualified top comment on a wide range od issues. you believe in wiccans (bad drinks) werewolves or whatever, and you want to talk about morals?? do you really feel the need to show us how goofy you are? jere’s a hint carrieL we already know. no go back to watching the walking dead and leave it alone. maybe go hangout with the wall straeet protesters; i’m sure you’ll find a few bartenders there.

  • David

    im tired now. ill be back tmrew carrie if you feel the need further your craziness

  • Carrie- The Crazy Witch

    Wow David.. You have high credentials, but horrid spelling. I would have thought someone with a degree in law would at least know how to form sentences that, A: Aren’t run on’s, B: Make sense, and C: have proper spelling. You have no idea about the religion of Wicca. If you did, you would realize that the Christian religion was essentially formed from the beliefs of Wiccan/Paganism. Now I will make assumptions about you, considering you made several about me. Here goes… You have no degree from any college, be it Penn State, or UN of AZ. You used Penn State, because it has been in the news recently, and UN of AZ because you recently saw a commercial for The University of Phoenix. You chose law, because you think that makes you smarter, therefore hoping it would make me cringe in fear at your big time degree. Not scared. If indeed you are a lawyer, you should possibly consider getting your money back, because your defense was weak and extremely lacking in proper research (as well as grammar.) Maybe you are fresh out of law school, and you haven’t had time to polish your awesome debating skills yet. If you are a veteran lawyer, I am willing to bet you haven’t won many cases.

    In closing, I would also like to add… I am assuming you are probably some right wing nut job who belongs to the NRA, wears sandals with socks, and chews Copenhagen because it’s an American thing to do. You have no idea about the world you live in, and the only reason you even decided to respond to this topic is because you are a Christian who believes that dinosaurs never existed, and were planted by people to lead people astray form your precious beliefs.

    Call me crazy, call me a freak, call me whatever obscene name you can think of. I will always have a retort that not only comes across as much more intelligent, but also has truth to it. And that my friend, is what a REAL AMERICAN is. Truth, conviction, and heart. Something you seem to lack in everything you have shown here.

    • Hmm

      Please don’t get upset, but I am going to correct something. I don’t know very much, if anything, about wiccanism, but Christianity was not essentially formed from Wiccan/paganism. Maybe you believe that, but it is not so.
      Also, I am a Christian and I believe that dinosaurs existed, believing that doesn’t mean that God didn’t create the world.
      Truth is a good thing to stand for, but different people have different beliefs of what truth is. We all believe we are right, but we can’t all be right.
      P.S. Do not think this comment is meant to defend that Dave guy, it isn’t.

    • Bob

      Your a clown.

    • Ellwood City

      Great reply!

    • Roz

      Carrie you are my hero and the only source of reason in this thread!

      • Roz

        On a side note could you recommend a good book outlining Wicca?

  • http://Facebook ashleigh wardman

    David thanks for the chuckles ;) off the rcord lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashleynicolelotz Ashley Lotz

    I must say, I’m glad I took the time to read the responses and not just the article for once, lol. David, act like an adult. Carrie, more power to you! Now, as for the actual topic at hand…As an actual resident of Ellwood City, I believe the nativity scene should stay. No one has had a problem with us having it there for the past 50 years, so why now? Has a nativity scene become more offensive over the years somehow? No. Do these people in Wisconsin have to look at it? No. We Ellwood Citians don’t have a problem with it. I’m athiest and still don’t see a problem here, really. I think it’s just people finding reasons to b*tch about something.

    • Alleyne

      Ashley, how do you know that no one has had a problem with it? Do you have any idea what it’s like to not be a Christian during this time of year? You learn very quickly not to speak up about what it means to be constantly reminded that you matter a little less in our culture. Look at the abusive and ugly language used in these comments by people who’d probably call themselves Christians, referring to this alleged “busload” of activists from Wisconsin (I’ll believe it when I see them roll into town) as “dung” and casting aspersions on everything from their American-ness to their mental health.

      Do you think that the mayor of Ellwood City would respond to a citizen who said “I don’t like this display” with any more generous an attitude than he’s displayed thus far? He’s standing on “tradition” of decades and that’s more important to him than fairness to non-Christians who have to wonder if their government represents them at all. And apparently more important to him than the law, which actually is based on a case from right here. In 1989 in County of Allegheny v. ACLU Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a creche standing independently on public property was not permissible. That it’s a “tradition” doesn’t make it any more right.

      • had it

        Don’t like it?? MOVE! We have had to “modify” our traditions to support you non Christan. Back in the day there were no argument but now heavens forbid I put a religious decoration in my yard. Ridiculous!

      • Ashley Nicole Lotz

        I appreciate the backup, Sidda!

      • Sidda

        Wait, doesn’t Ashley’s comment say she’s an athiest? Um.. I think that would mean she knows what it’s like. Christian or not, at the end of the day, it’s just a piece of plastic. It’s not hurting anyone. It’s just a tradition.. and a harmless tradition. If the worst thing in your life is that you have to look at a piece of plastic that hurts your tender little feel bads, then I’d say you have a pretty easy life.

        Now that the bad gunky is out of my system, I’d like to say please, just calm down everyone, and remember that Good Will is the main part of this time of year, no matter what you celebrate. Be nice to each other.

        I’d like to end with lyrics from the Blues Travler’s Christmas Song:

        ” If it’s Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanza, Solstice, Harvest, or December twenty-fifth Peace on earth to everyone and abundance to everyone you’re with”

  • steve

    doesn’t this happen every year? A town puts up a christian symbol around december and someone with a different religion gets upset that their symbol isn’t displayed…then a big argument about how every symbol of christmas was actually STOLEN from the pagans?

    Is there any sense of community anymore? Seems like everyone needs to hate on others just to make themselves feel better about their own depressing lives.

    • Kool Aid Man

      Steve, you’re awesome. :) Like I say, be nice everyone! Worry about something that matters!!! Take all of the enegry you put into hating, and.. I dunno.. pick up trash on the side of the road! Or, volunteer at an animal shelter!! Do something productive.

  • gina

    Wow, you feel excluded because some (most) celebrate a holiday and you feel the need to speak out against it and the symbols that represent it? I think that if you are feeling like you “matter less” may signify a deeper issue here? Christmas may mean more to some than others but it is a time of joy and giving for all. If you choose not to participate what gives you the right to stop others?

  • Nikki

    Christmas is celebrating the birth of Christ, therefore, the Nativity scene should be allowed. I am Christian and I believe that if some other religion would want to put something up there in recognition of their religion on their holidays, then the American thing to do would be allow it. To Roz, Christians should believe in dinosaurs, because in the Bible, I think in the book of Job, there is mention of the animals, I just don’t think they are actually called dinosaurs. So if someone says they are Christian, believes the Bible, then they should believe in dinosaurs.

    • Hmm

      The Bible speaks of the Behemoth and the Leviathan in Job, I’m not sure if they were actually dinosaurs or not, but it is possible. I personally believe the Leviathan could possibly be a dragon, or dragonlike creature, which I think would be cool.
      I am also a Christian and I live where this matters to me, and yes, you are right, they should allow other religions to put up decorations for their holidays too, but yes, they should allow our Nativity scene.

  • gina

    I am just amused that the very people who scream the loudest that religion is being “shoved down their throats” are the same people who want to shove their beliefs on what is “right” n their minds down everyone else’s. As a very good friend of mine pointed out….what happened to respect? Just because someone has a beliefs that you may not share, why is it offensive to you? Really? Why? Are you that angry? Bored? Miserable?? I am not offended by symbols that represent religions other than mine. I would never dream of disparaging them. It is, as I have said, disrespectful….

    • Teresa

      Gina, you are exactly right, I am not offended by others beliefs. They should not be offended by my beliefs.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Bringing You The Best in Sports Talk Radio
Download And Win Today!

Listen Live