Charleston SC Fire Dept. Bows To Pressure, Removes Nativity Scene

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The Charleston fire department has removed a nativity display from a station after getting a complaint that it was an unconstitutional endorsement of one religion.

The manger scene was removed from Fire Station 12 after city officials received a letter from the group Freedom from Religion Foundation, which works for the separation of church and state.

Putting the creche on city property "unmistakably sends the message that the city of Charleston endorses the religious beliefs embodied in the display," staff attorney Rebecca Kratz wrote in the letter, dated Dec. 17, to Mayor Joe Riley and Fire Chief Thomas Carr. "Once the city enters into the religion business ... it strikes a blow at religious liberty, forcing taxpayers of all faiths and of no religion to support a particular expression of worship."

According to the letter, someone complained to the Madison, Wis.-based group. The letter noted the fire station has displayed the nativity annually since at least 2004. Kratz thanked the fire department for at least not displaying an "illuminated Latin cross (the pre-eminent symbol of Christianity) atop the firehouse roof," as it had in 2008.

The nativity scene was removed last week in response, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported Monday.

On Sunday, no creche could be seen, but a large, white illuminated cross was leaning against a stone memorial to the nine Charleston firefighters who died in the June 2007 furniture store blaze.

Firefighters at the station told the paper it was not part of a Christmas display.

Charleston's legal department advised officials to remove the display, citing U.S. Supreme Court rulings on promoting one religion over another, said fire department spokesman Mark Ruppel.

"The creche is the universal symbol of Christianity, and therefore, based on the law, it was removed from the fire station," city officials said in a release. "The city and the fire department fully support everyone's right to practice his or her religion in our city."

A number of Charleston fire stations have Christmas decorations, but those include Santa Claus, lights and the words "Merry Christmas" on a painted fire truck decoration.

On removal of the nativity, the Christian group's president, Oran Smith, said Monday, "It appears the Charleston fire house had not followed current law as handed down by the Supreme Court, but that's not to say it isn't frustrating to those of us who think a manger scene shouldn't be controversial."

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  • by Greg Morris Location: Vanceboro NC on Jan 5, 2010 at 05:01 PM
    Put the idea of a nativity scene on the ballot at election time. Let the people of the town decide by majority if they approve this. If so, then display the nativity scene and to heck with anyone that don't like it. It's not hard to figure out.
  • by mjb Location: windsor on Jan 4, 2010 at 04:12 PM
    I did not appreciate the implications by the "Voice of Reason" that the only reason I go to church is to compare clothing and that I only go on Sundays. I was just letting him know that's not the only reason I and many of the people I know go to church. Where is your solid proof that none of these miracles in the Bible occured? How would you know anything about any of those miracles if you've never read it? Don't tell me you never read any fairy tales before. I was merely saying if the Bible is only a book of fairy tales to you then maybe it wouldn't hurt you to read it. Again, I say, any other religous symbols displayed at Christmas does not bother me. Would those bother The "Voice of Reason," or is it just the Nativity scene that bothers him?
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jan 4, 2010 at 07:57 AM
    MJB, voice of reason has no voice or reason. Its about justifying a failure, you go along with it and defend your bad judgement no matter what, it makes it OK. Why else would he post here?
  • by TrueAmerican4ever Location: Greenville on Jan 4, 2010 at 07:22 AM
    The men responsible for building the foundation of the United States had little use for Christianity, and many were strongly OPPOSED to it. They were men of The Enlightenment, NOT men of Christianity. They were Deists who DID NOT believe the bible was true. When the Founders wrote the nation's Constitution, they specified that "NO religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." (Article 6, section 3) This provision was radical in its day-- giving equal citizenship to believers and non-believers alike. They wanted to ensure that no single religion could make the claim of being the official, national religion, such as England had. Nowhere in the Constitution does it mention religion, except in exclusionary terms. The words "Jesus Christ, Christianity, Bible, and God" are NEVER mentioned in the Constitution-- NOT ONCE.
  • by The Voice of Reason on Jan 3, 2010 at 02:15 PM
    Well, mjb, why should I read a book of fairy tales if there is no proof beyond a doubt that such "miracles" actually occured?
  • by mjb Location: windsor, nc on Jan 2, 2010 at 09:06 PM
    To The Voice of Reason: I am Christian and I live it every day. I don't save it for Sundays to go to a building to compare clothing and listen to fairy tales. If you say the Bible is a book of fairy tales, maybe you should read it. Don't judge us, leave us alone.
  • by lewis Location: nc on Jan 2, 2010 at 06:38 AM
    If you're sick of christians and what they believe; read this countries history. This country was founded on Christianity.
  • by Obama Snake Oil co Location: Washington on Jan 2, 2010 at 05:14 AM
    The Voice of Reason, if you want to be aethist, there are countries you can live in other than the US. Go get some koolaid, I am sure its cold by now.
  • by The Voice of Reason on Jan 1, 2010 at 10:22 PM
    Save the judeo-christian rhetoric for Sundays when you go to a building to simply compare clothing and listen to fairy tales.
  • by A Different Voice Location: Eastern NC on Jan 1, 2010 at 07:02 PM
    Remember that all the people who work for the government are tax payers also! We have a right to express our beliefs at work as well as others. So you're saying that even if everyone of the firefighters at that station were Christians and believed the same things and were all in agreement, they still cannot display any symbols of their beliefs just because they work for the government. Why? What if they paid for and/or made the display themselves without 'taxpayers money'? It only shows what they believe in. It doesn't in anyway say that the city endorses one religion over another. Why do you Nonbelievers celebrate CHRISTmas anyway? Why do you let it worry you so much? You can look the other way as Christians are being forced to do nowadays. Why must Christians endure so much persecution and not be able to say anything 'offensive' to or about others. Maybe it's because the Christian way is the right way. Did you ever think about that.

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