Seven months after the Freedom From Religion Foundation first protested a city nativity scene, the Ellwood City Borough Council (Pa.) has agreed to uphold the First Amendment. The council voted down a proposal on July 16 that would likely have brought the nativity back to public property, through a lottery system allowing a lone display in front of the municipal building during December. The lottery would have discriminated against non-residents.
On behalf of local complainants, FFRF wrote several letters in December. And in late December, the council voted to move the nativity to private property. After things quieted down, the council formed a “Nativity Committee” dedicated to replacing the nativity. The Nativity Committee wrote what one reporter called “a convoluted, complicated, constitutionally bereft proposal that slaps a figurative ‘SUE ME’ sign on the borough’s back.” The council voted the proposal down 4-3 this week, despite ministerial support.
“The invaluable help of FFRF member Stephen Hirtle contributed to the victory. Often having area residents with the courage to take a stand will make all the difference. Stephen, we salute you,” said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. Barker thanked FFRF Staff Attorneys Patrick Elliott and Andrew Seidel for their hard work in ending this violation.