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W.Va. town adds Jesus to Nativity scene

By The Associated Press
12.06.06

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.”


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