ELLWOOD CITY (KDKA) – It seems to be a never-ending Crèche controversy.
The nativity scene that used to be in front of the Ellwood City Town Hall has now been moved down the street after last year’s legal battle with an out-of-town atheist group.
Now, for the first time in decades, the display is in a new location for the town’s annual Light Up Night celebration.
In boxes stacked high behind the altar of an old Catholic church that’s soon the be a bar, attorney Joe Bellissimo prepares for battle. A 500 sign war against folks he believes are trying to tear down his town’s religious values.
“This is a faith-based community, very strong in their beliefs and we live them here, and it’s important to stand up for that when you’re pressured into it,” said Bellissimo.
Pressured into moving the nativity scene to a local restaurant that used to be a Catholic church.
There was a protest at Christmas last year. More than 1,000 people came out, outraged over efforts by anti-religion organizations threatening legal action if the nativity scene wasn’t moved off of city property.
“This is our town, this is our building; if we want to put up a nativity scene, then it’s our right to put it up,” said one Ellwood City resident at the protest in 2011.
A divided City Council, concerned about a possible million dollar legal bill to fight the issue in court, voted to move the nativity scene off of city property.
Ellwood City Mayor Anthony Court voted to keep it there, and still believes it should be there.
“We had to move it, but that’s not the end of the story,” said Mayor Court.
A couple of lighted trees and an empty sleigh at all the decorations left at City Hall; no nativity scene at all. The mayor says he believes that not what most residents want and plans to fight to get it back.
“I’m pretty sure 98 percent of our community is on the right side and that’s keeping it at City Hall and that’s my belief also,” said Mayor Court.
Meanwhile, residents are displaying signs saying, “Ellwood: The City With The Nativity.” That’s how they plan to spread the word about their town.
“We may have lost the battle but not the war,” said Ralph Ciopetta, of Ellwood City Council.
For now, the nativity scene will remain in its new spot, but the hope is this will start a new tradition.
Stay with KDKA for Christine D’Antonio’s full report from Ellwood City’s Light Up Night at 11 p.m.