A Christian nativity scene on village property in the Cincinnati
suburb of Addyston, Ohio, vanished (some say almost miraculously) soon
after a letter of complaint was sent by the Freedom of Religion
An area resident alerted the Foundation on Dec. 10 about the
creche on public property near U.S. 50 and Main Street adjacent to a
village maintenance building.
The Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., works to keep state and
church separate and has more than 14,000 members nationwide and almost
400 in Ohio.
In her letter
to Mayor Dan Pillow, Rebecca Kratz, Foundation staff attorney, noted
that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it is illegal for public entities
"to maintain, erect or host a holiday display that consists solely of a
nativity scene, thus singling out, showing preference for, and
endorsing one religion."
Kratz referenced another federal ruling that said the creche is
irrefutably a religious symbol and a "re-creation of an event that lies
at the heart of the Christian faith."
The Foundation received no official response from the village,
but on Dec. 12 the complainant e-mailed to say the nativity scene was
no longer there: "Never had such a fast result."
The Foundation's letter reminded the village of the "ample
private and church grounds where religious displays may be freely
placed. Once the government enters into the religion business,
conferring endorsement and preference for one religion over others, it
strikes a blow at religious liberty forcing taxpayers of all faiths and
of no religion to support a particular expression of worship."
The Foundation gets many inquiries about possible violations this time of year and has prepared a list of Frequently Asked Questions about Christmas displays on public property.
"This isn't an issue of free speech," said Annie Laurie Gaylor,
Foundation co-president. "Why should nonbelievers and non-Christians be
subjected to Christian religious mythology on property that is jointly
owned by all citizens?"