CHICAGO – A religious group set up a DVD player and TV set at a downtown holiday bazaar to show a movie trailer depicting the birth of Jesus after the city dropped an objection to the display.
The city initially disapproved of the showing of promotional clips from "The Nativity Story" at the traditional German Christkindlmarket because it represented paid advertising that could offend non-Christians.
The TV was in a padlocked wooden booth between a menorah and the Islamic crescent symbol Wednesday morning, but the bazaar was closed.
Attorney Kevin Greenwood, who in the late 1980s clerked for a judge who ruled the menorah could be displayed in the plaza, stopped by to see if the menorah was still there. He said the movie trailer was out of place.
"If you want to express your religious beliefs with some kind of symbol, that's one thing. But if you want to promote a movie, that's commercial," said Greenwood, 50, of New Lenox.
New Line Cinema had agreed to pay $12,000 to Christkindlmarket organizers to continuously play the movie trailer at the bazaar.
Responding to the city's concerns, the organizers and movie studio canceled their deal.
But an organization called Civil Liberties for Urban Believers, representing a group of Chicago churches, obtained a city permit Tuesday to show the movie trailer at its own display at the bazaar, said the group's spokesman, Thomas Ciesielka.
Ciesielka said his group was able to secure a permit because its display isn't commercial. The city risked violating religious speech statutes if they denied the request, he said.
Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the city's office of special events, said she could provide no information on the decision.
New Line Cinema, a unit of Time Warner Inc., has provided no money to the church group or the bazaar, said Christina Kounelias, executive vice president of the film company.
She said the original decision to cancel the trailer was "probably well-intentioned."
"In an effort to be politically correct they behaved incorrectly," she said Tuesday.
Around the country, Christmas displays on public property have become an annual source of contention, forcing elected officials to approach them cautiously.
Last week, 14 plastic Christmas trees were restored at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after officials received assurances they wouldn't be brought in to court. The trees had been removed because a Jewish rabbi threatened to sue over the lack of a menorah in the airport's holiday display.