Detroit Suburb Considers Ousting City Hall Nativity Scene

A display of an infant Jesus could lose its traditional spot outside city hall in this Detroit suburb following objections by civil liberties advocates.

The Berkley City Council is expected to discuss the future of the city's Nativity scene on Oct. 16. The scene has been displayed outside the city hall for 65 years.

In December, the American Civil Liberties Union raised an objection to the display, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment provision on religious freedom.

A committee recently presented the choices of moving the creche to a nearby business property, establishing a free-speech zone where religious groups are permitted, or letting religious leaders decide where to place the scene, The Detroit News reported.

"The issue is: This is a matter of municipal sponsorship of religious items. That is the bottom line. Is that our job?" Mayor Marilyn Stephan asked. "I do not believe that is the job of a city, a county, a state, a nation. When you take one religious symbol, you are promoting it."

Local clergy association member the Rev. George Covintree of Berkley First United Methodist Church said the group happily would display the Nativity scene outside his church.

"It would be in full public display. We feel the best place to display religious symbols is within the context of the churches, synagogues and mosques," he said.