First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
W.Va. town adds Jesus to Nativity scene

By The Associated Press

Editor’s note: The Associated Press reported on Dec. 18 that in response to countless phone calls, letters and e-mails to Mayor Dick Callaway, Mary and Joseph figures were added to the Nativity scene at St. Albans’ annual Festival of Lights.

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. — It looks like Jesus has made it for Christmas after all.

Days after a flurry of news reports on the Nativity scene here that lacked a representation of Jesus, town officials have put the infant in the manger.

St. Albans Mayor Dick Callaway said he got e-mails from as far away as South Korea about the display, which is one of 350 light exhibits as part of the town’s annual Festival of Lights. The manger scene at the festival had included shepherds, camels, and a guiding star, but no Jesus, Mary or Joseph. Now, though, Jesus — whose birth is celebrated on Dec. 25 by Christians all over the world — is back in the picture.

“The baby is in the manger,” Callaway said Dec. 4.

A city parks official had said Jesus was left out of the scene to avoid a potential conflict over the separation of church and state, since the Festival of Lights is at a public park. But Callaway said it was more of a technical issue and an oversight.

“The purpose isn’t to support a particular religion,” he said. “It’s just to show one more side to the season.”

Other parks with similar holiday light displays in West Virginia, such as Wheeling’s Oglebay Park, have Nativity scenes complete with Baby Jesus, and haven’t reported any complaints. Conservative legal group the Alliance Defense Fund said last week that such public displays are usually on solid legal footing as long as the religious displays are mixed in with nonreligious exhibits.

The St. Albans festival has a wide range of seasonal and non-seasonal displays, ranging from snowmen to characters from the animated film “Shrek.”


Mich. Capitol conifer re-christened 'Christmas tree'

'If you're going to have a tree, you might as well call it what it is,' Michigan Jewish Conference director says after lawmakers vote to change name. 11.30.06

'Tis the season for disputes over holiday observances
New Jersey town officials turn to state municipal league for guidance on how to handle religious displays on government property. 12.04.06

Nativity clip plays at Chicago bazaar
Trailer for 'The Nativity Story' shown after city drops objection to display. 12.25.06

Voters in Detroit suburb reject mandatory Nativity scene
Proposal would have required Berkley officials to display figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph at City Hall for about one month around Christmas. 11.08.07

The war over Christmas: Who’s fighting and why?
By Charles C. Haynes This year the Christmas crusaders appear to be winning: Holiday is out, Christmas is in. 12.11.05

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

print this   Print

Last system update: Friday, July 25, 2008 | 10:56:00
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment

First Reports
Supreme Court
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Freedom Sings™
First Amendment

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment

Lesson plans
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links