The city of Wadena, Minn., voted on Nov. 10 to no longer place a nativity scene in a public park after getting letters of complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national church/state watchdog.
Wadena, a city of about 4,000 residents located 160 miles northwest of Minneapolis, annually placed the nativity scene in Burlington Northern Park, a city-owned property.
Wadena Mayor George Diess told KARE-11 News from Minneapolis, “When something is put up that many years, it becomes a tradition to the city.”
But despite the mayor’s feelings, the city council voted unanimously, if reluctantly, to remove the nativity scene.
“The city’s display of a Christian message in the city’s premier park unmistakably sends the message that the city endorses the religious beliefs embodied in the display,” wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott in the original letter to the city. “Putting up a nativity scene on public property tells nonbelievers and non-Christians that they are outsiders in their community, that they are excluded.”
KARE-11 reported that the city council meeting was packed with residents who spoke in favor of keeping the display on city property. However, the fear of a lawsuit convinced the council members to vote against their wishes. The nativity scene will go to a local ministerial association.
FFRF has more than 23,000 members and more than 500 members in Minnesota.