ELLWOOD CITY (KDKA) — Constitutional law isn’t much on the mind of 3-year-old Xavier who stopped by the manger on the Ellwood City Municipal building’s front lawn.
Earlier this month, 500 or more protesters turned out after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened legal action if the crèche remained on public property.
“I can tell you this – I [will not] back down,” Ellwood City Mayor Anthony Court said, determined not to budge.
The nativity display was surrounded by secular and other symbols of the season to bring it more in line with Supreme Court rulings.
But limited borough funds and fears of lengthy litigation prompted council to vote 4-to-2 Monday night to leave the crèche where it is this year and move it in 2012 to a far less controversial spot.
“Well, my stance hasn’t changed,” Mayor Court said. He says council was offered only two options.
“One to put their banner up or to move the nativity scene,” Court explained. “Council opted to move the nativity scene.”
The banner, proposed by the anti-religious group, reads: “There are no gods, no devils, no heaven or hell. Religion is but a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”
Reaction to council’s decision is mixed.
“I believe in keeping church and state separate,” says Joe Moczan, “But I think they’re pushing the issue way too far for little things like this.”
“I just think it’s dumb,” says Diane Cynkar, “It’s been there all these years and what harm is it doing? Why move it?”
Annie Laurie Gaylor, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, told KDKA’s Mary Robb Jackson in a phone call that they never intended to ban the nativity scene – only to get it off public property.
She says they’re pleased that their concerns are satisfied and that reason and the constitution prevailed.