Away from the manger?

Saying it would be “inappropriate” to include them, Memphis, Tenn., library officials have banned Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the wise men from a promotional nativity scene – leaving only the stable animals and a shepherd boy.

Attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund say they are working to “educate” the officials about their action, saying the exclusion of the figurines is blatantly unconstitutional.

ADF confirmed to WND that the “nativity” scene is up at the library but includes just three palm-sized farm animals and a boy with a sheep over his shoulders.

According to a statement from ADF, the controversy arose when Brandi Chambless, a member of the music ministry at Broadmoor Memphis Church, submitted an announcement for display on the library’s community shelves regarding the church’s upcoming Christmas show. Library officials accepted the announcement but told Chambless that she would have to remove the “inappropriate” figures of the baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary, and the wise men from an accompanying nativity scene and limit it to farm animals alone.

“Now we’ve got a bunch of barnyard animals in our display. We’ve got a sheep, a goat, a cow,” Chambless said last night on the Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor.” “We just think it’s the most ridiculous thing.”

“This is not the same as a city building a manger at city expense on city property,” said Andrew Napolitano, senior judicial anlayst for Fox News. “I think the library’s going to back down and let the baby Jesus and the blessed mother be there.”

ADF says the community shelves have traditionally been open to groups and individuals for the display of announcements, advertisements and other items as a means of providing information to the community.

“It truly is ridiculous that we even have to discuss whether a nativity scene can be displayed at Christmas,” said ADF senior legal counsel Nate Kellum. “Libraries are supposed to encourage free expression and thought. Government officials do not have the authority to pick and choose which items in a Christmas nativity scene are acceptable for display.”

In a Dec. 5 letter to Memphis/Shelby County Public Library officials, Kellum explained that displays such as the one submitted by Chambless in no way violate the U.S. Constitution.

“It is blatantly unconstitutional for the government to single out speech from a church for discrimination simply because it is religious,” Kellum wrote. “For this reason, the refusal to allow Broadmoor Memphis an opportunity to display the nativity scene because the display is religious is a violation of First Amendment rights.”

As part of ADF’s Christmas Project, the law firm says it has contacted more than 10,300 school districts nationwide this year to inform them of what is legal regarding religious expression at Christmastime.

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