The people of Wadena, Minnesota, are trying to set a Guinness World Record by putting up the most Nativity scenes in their town.
The movement is in response to the city council voting to remove a Nativity that had been on public property after the Freedom From Religion Foundation requested the town remove it.
The Nativity scene had been in the Burlington Northern Park for years but had been sheltered by a band shell. It was relocated to a prominent spot at the center of the park in 2014, where it swiftly drew complaints, according to KARE.
“They were offended that we had put it out on city property,” said Mayor George Deiss, who responded that the Nativity is an intrinsic part of the community. “When something is put up that many years it becomes a tradition to the city.”
Wisconsin-based FFRF sent a request that Wadena move the Nativity, citing that it is illegal to erect a visible endorsement of a religion on public property. An attorney from the organization, Patrick Elliot, noted that “tradition” does not trump the law.
“There are a number of traditions that should be stopped and those are ones that violate the Constitution,” Elliot said. “So no matter how long they’ve been perpetuating this illegal display, now is the time to stop it. Now that they are aware of it.”
The Wadena City Council voted to remove the Nativity scene on Nov. 10, but some residents complained.
Over the course of the next month, local Dani Sworski started a movement to peacefully protest the Nativity removal by encouraging as many Wadena residents as possible to place Nativity scenes on their private property.
Sworski created a Facebook page titled “Wadena Nativity Display” to promote the effort, according to KMSP-TV.
“I just get another smile on my face every time I go by another Nativity scene I haven’t seen before,” Sworski said after her neighbors began erecting the scenes of Jesus' birth.
The town has been attempting to break the Guinness World Record for most Nativities in a concentrated location. The current record holder was 2,500. While Wadena residents have put up more than 1,000 Nativities, it remains unlikely they can break the record, according to Inforum.
The Nativity that had been on public property now resides in front of a local, privately owned hospital, where it can be viewed by residents.