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Florida cities caught banishing Nativity scenes

The Christmas greeting in Inverness, Fla., where a Nativity scene apparently was dropped from city decorations this year

Two Florida cities have been caught apparently censoring Nativity scenes from their Christmas plans, and a national legal organization that battles for the rights of people to live out their faith has sent them letters asking that the traditional displays be restored.

“It’s ridiculous that people have to think twice about whether it’s OK to publicly celebrate Christmas,” ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum said about the dispute.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans celebrate Christmas and are opposed to any kind of censorship of it. However, groups that oppose our nation’s traditions have spread misinformation about the constitutionality of Christmas displays.”

The letters went to the cities of Inverness and Boca Raton in Florida.

According to the ADF, Nativity scenes traditionally have adorned the front of the city hall in Inverness and in Boca Raton the display usually has been put up at the libraries.

“But this year city officials have eliminated them from holiday displays, apparently out of fear of litigation from groups hostile to this nation’s traditions,” the ADF said.

The ADF’s letter to Inverness officials said, “Unfortunately, it appears as though unfounded beliefs about Christmas celebrations may have led you to consider self-censorship of the perfectly legal Nativity display. It is our firm opinion that the City of Inverness need not fear legal liability for erecting and placing a Nativity display on public grounds.”

To officials in Boca Raton, the ADF said, “The purpose of this letter is to inform you that displaying the Nativity scene along with other holiday displays is entirely constitutional, is consistent with the best of America’s traditions, and is inclusive of the religious demographics of the community.

“But intentionally omitting the Nativity scene from a holiday display sends a hostile message to people who adhere to that faith and is discriminatory. The better course of action for the city to take is to have a display that is inclusive of the Nativity scene, along with the menorah and Christmas tree, and to not send a hostile message to people of that faith.”

“Banning Christmas displays is clearly out of sync with the beliefs of the American people, common sense, and the Constitution,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster. “Eradicating the Nativity scene … sends a hostile message to the more than 90 percent of Americans who celebrate Christmas.”