Accompanied by a lawyer, a couple successfully acquired permission from a Pennsylvania town council to set up a Nativity scene on public property.
The Beaver Borough Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to allow Deborah and Michael Sturm to erect their display this Saturday.
The Sturm’s attorney, Edward L. White of the Thomas More Law Center, had written a letter to the council in November, arguing for the display’s constitutionality.
White noted with irony that Saturday also will be the day when local citizens protest against Beaver County for not allowing Nativity scenes outside the county courthouse, which is across the street from the park where the Sturms will set up their display.
Nativity display deemed illegal by county officials in Pennyslvania. (Courtesy Beaver County Times)
The display was erected at the entrance to Bradys Run Park by organizers of the county’s annual Festival of Trees fund-raiser, which benefits children served by the county’s Children and Youth Services.
County officials said the group did not get permission, but if they had asked, they would have been rejected because the county solicitor has determined it violates the U.S. Constitution.
Vic Walczak, legal director for the Pennsylvania ACLU, told the Beaver County Times religious symbols arbitrarily erected on public property are unconstitutional because they endorse a particular religion, and government must represent people of all faiths.
“If Beaver County is putting up that creche, what’s the message they’re sending to residents: We promote, support and endorse Christmas and Christianity?” he said. “Does that mean Christianity is better than the other religions?”