Reporting: Kym Gable

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There’s been a major move in the so-called “Crèche Controversy” in Ellwood City, Lawrence County.

The nativity display has always been a focal point of holiday celebrations in Ellwood City.

But for the first time in decades, it’s not in front of city hall.

“Something that we’ve always had and it shouldn’t be changed,” Zach Kennedy said. “It just shouldn’t.”

Almost three years ago, the Freedom From Religion Group in Wisconsin challenged the borough, saying government and religion shouldn’t mix.

“I grew up in Ellwood and we’ve had one here since I can remember and I don’t think it should have to be changed because a few people decide they don’t want it,” Kim Kennedy said.

“We have a lot of religious people in Ellwood City and it means a lot to them,” Joseph Bellissimo said. “I really think it hurt a lot of the people.”

After a hard-fought legal battle, council finally voted to move it to avoid costly litigation.

“It hurt,” Mary Greene said. “It was very painful, but no matter where they put it, it’s always in our hearts here in Ellwood. And that’s where it will always stay.”

Local businessman Joe Bellissimo offered to put the creche on his property — a former church that’s being renovated to house a restaurant.

“I’m just one person in this community that said we’re not going to step aside and just let them rule us here,” Bellissimo said. “It’s our time and we’re going to show that we’re going to fight this.”

“It’s OK ‘cause it doesn’t really matter where it is, just that it’s there,” Brandi Johnston said.

The mayor is eager to leave behind the pressure and the protest, for now.

“Our community fought hard,” Court said. “I guess it’s time to move forward but we really put a good effort together and I don’t think it’s over.”

Ellwood City Celebrates Light Up Night Amid Nativity Controversy (11/30/2012)
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