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« on: December 23, 2004, 02:54:14 AM »

New England Nativity Nixed by ACLU Lawsuit

by Jim Brown
December 21, 2004

(AgapePress) - Residents of a New England town are expressing outrage over the removal of a crèche from the front of an elementary school. The Nativity scene had been displayed at that location every year for nearly eight decades.

Balch Elementary School in South Norwood, Massachusetts, took down the Nativity scene after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the display and contending that its presence on school grounds sends a message that the schools endorse Christianity. Sarah Wunsch, an attorney with the ACLU, told the Boston Globe that "kids being driven to school or being dropped off see it and think it's part of school." Joining in the lawsuit are four Norwood residents.

Local attorney Paul Eysie says although only a handful of people were offended by the display, the school abandoned its fight against political correctness. He explains the site for the Nativity scene is part of local history.

"Our church -- a church that was built 85 years ago by my grandfather -- is diagonally across the street from where the crèche sits," he explains. "So every year since my grandfather came from the old country, it would be a tradition in our church to go over to the Nativity scene and venerate Baby Jesus, and it would be a part of our holiday celebration. Well, guess what? This year, there's no Nativity scene there to walk over to."

Eysie and other local residents who for years have sung Christmas carols in front of the display are saddened by what they view as "political correctness" -- and that the school board would cave in so easily and abandon local tradition.

"I think that there's a lot of history in the town where ... not only the Balch School has been used for the crèche, but we've also had flea markets, we've had band concerts. We've done a lot of different things," he says. "It's now getting to the point where they don't want children in school plays to sing 'Silent Night' because you're offending someone."

Residents are hoping to carve out a small, ~30-square-foot portion of the Balch school property so it could be considered a town common, and the Nativity scene can be displayed. According to the Globe, courts have allowed Nativity scenes on town commons under certain conditions, but there has not been a case involving a crèche on school grounds. Earlier this year, school authorities denied a request that land in front of the school be turned over to the town.


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