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Atheist Group Wants Nativity Scene Removed From Town Hall Property

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which made headlines in Pitman, NJ over a Christian banner, wants a Nativity scene outside Woodbridge's Municipal Building removed because they say it violates separation of church and state.

A Wisconsin organization devoted to keeping church and state separate is demanding that remove a traditional Nativity scene from township property. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Mayor John McCormac and members of the town council, requesting that they "permanently remove a religious display from township property."

The Nativity scene was constructed of plywood and painted by members of the township's Public Works Dept. years ago, and has been traditionally placed in front of the Municipal Building when other seasonal decorations are put up along Main Street. 

The display is located at the front of the building, across from the War Memorial Monument, on the corner of Main Street and Rahway Avenue. It usually is displayed along with other downtown Christmas decorations through New Year's.

"When the government displays this manger scene, which depicts the legendary birth of Jesus, it places the imprimatur of the government behind the Christian religious doctrine. Woodbridge Township is sending the unmistakable message that it endorses the religious beliefs embodied in the display," said Patrick Elliott, an attorney with FFRF who sent the letter.

The Nativity scene, Elliott said, "excludes non-Christians, such as Jewish and atheist citizens. A growing number of the population is non-religious, including 15% of the residents of New Jersey." 

Elliott said that an unnamed resident had requested the organization look into the legality of the manager scene. He cited a on the township's Nativity display, and another Nativity scene on the grounds of located at the other end of Main Street on Amboy Avenue.

The township also has a Hanukkah menorah prominently displayed at the town hall entrance located at the side of the building. Christmas wreaths and a Christmas tree are located in the building's lobby.

FFRF made headlines in New Jersey earlier in December, when they contacted officials in Pitman, NJ and tried to get them to remove a "Keep Christ in Christmas" banner placed across a roadway by the local Knights of Columbus.

The Pitman borough attorney said in a nj.com article that since the banner was attached to private property, it was a zoning issue at best, and the borough had no jurisdiction. The banner wasn't removed.

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, based in Cranford, said he believes that the township's display of a Nativity scene on township property is illegal.

"It's very possible that this is an illegal, unconstitutional display. We take the separation of church and state very seriously, it's necessary to have true religious freedom," Silverman said.

"Equality is an all or nothing prospect. This is a good example of the government taking sides in religion illegally. They can't break the law just because they want to," he said.

"They can't prefer one religion over another."

In the letter to Woodbridge officials, FFRF requested that the township "take immediate action to permanently remove this religious display from township property. We ask that you respond in writing with the steps you are taking to remedy this First Amendment violation."

Mayor John McCormac did not return phone calls for comment on FFRF's letter. 

Councilman Bob Luban found the whole FFRF demand "disgusting."

"This atheist group, as far as I'm concerned, can go ahead and try whatever they want. I have no problem with the Nativity or the menorah being displayed on township property," Luban said. "I'm personally tired of wacko fringe groups trying to dictate to everyone what they can and cannot do."

john schmalz December 30, 2011 at 12:20 PM
It is called Christmas get over it
Pastor Chris Sadlo December 30, 2011 at 12:56 PM
Dear Woodbridge...just ignore these people and don't give them any more free publicity.
CKS December 30, 2011 at 01:23 PM
Let these a'holes "believe" in what they "believe" and leave me to have MY beliefs. I don't melt if if I see a menorrah (sp?) or a Kenorrah (sp?) It's called TOLERAMCE amd ACCEPTANCE!
CKS December 30, 2011 at 02:46 PM
One more thought, do these a'holes go to work on Easter, Christmas, etc? I hope so--since they don't believe in religion, nevermind religious holidays.
Deborah Bell (Editor) December 30, 2011 at 02:53 PM
I believe they take federal holidays off, like everyone else.
Joseph Brinamen December 30, 2011 at 04:32 PM
Do these people believe in a higher power are do they think they are the Higher Power. God bles them.
Mary Moore December 30, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Woodbridge Township needs to stop wasting money by sending employees to set up Holiday decorations on township property. Why are they still doing this anyway? Other townships don't favor certain religions; it's become too offensive to all of the immigrants in this country. There are so many different kinds of people and religious preferences here today and local municipalities can't be doing this kind of stuff anymore. Who else does this? Keep church and state separate, the way it's supposed to be. Last time I looked, I think all signs pointed to the U.S. Constitution and a little thing called DEMOCRACY.
Sven Hartley December 30, 2011 at 06:40 PM
The "wacko fringe group" is the US Supreme Court that ruled in 1989 that a nativity on government land is a violation of the establishment clause and is illegal. Bob Luban needs to honor his oath to obey the laws or resign his post on council.
ed-words December 31, 2011 at 02:30 AM
I think the Court ruled that a Nativity scene on government property must include other religions' displays,also. Isn't that fair?
ed-words December 31, 2011 at 02:31 AM
It's called the Winter Solstice. Get over it.
ed-words December 31, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Good. Then put them next to your Christian display.
ed-words December 31, 2011 at 02:35 AM
If Christmas is a religious holiday, then Black Friday is the beginning of Advent.
Mark Farris December 31, 2011 at 03:49 AM
How about if some paid public employees were to teach a little evolution in Sunday school on Darwins birthday? On double time of course. Hallelujah!
CKS December 31, 2011 at 11:29 AM
Gee, if it weren't for the CHRISTIANS who came to this country trying to find religious freedom, you might not be enjoying the fruits of their hardships and beliefs. Besides, it probably takes all of one hour (maybe) to set this nativity scene up. Heck, I'll VOLUNTEER to set it up and I don't even live in Woodbridge. Then YOU can set up whatever YOU believe in, if you even believe in anything. P.S. I've seen municipal and country employees standing around when they should be working so please don't talk about "wasting " time setting this up.
ed-words December 31, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Your "freedom-loving" Christians had little tolerance of other beliefs in most of their colonies. Dust off that old history book. (Thomas Edison didn't "believe in anything"?)
Tom Maras December 31, 2011 at 02:50 PM
To be sure, the subject of religious displays on public property is a highly charged and, to some, a very personal issue. Obviously, the comments posted on this issue show it is an matter that does not lend itself to a purely objective viewpoint. Nevertheless, despite the deeply emotional and personal aspects of the issue, on either side, the matter must be governed by the law of the land, specifically, the US Constitution. In that connection, it is suggested anyone reading this post go to: http://www.uri.edu/personal/hbak9412/Reldis.htm#firstamendment. If our township can legally allow the placement of religious displays on certain pieces of public property, without the use of on duty government employees, the township should allow private groups to do so. In so doing, the township can avoid defending against yet another lawsuit, at taxpayer expense. Most importantly, the township would be enhancing the social fabric of our community through volunteerism.
CKS January 03, 2012 at 06:33 PM
good thought--why don't you show up at a town hall meeting and suggest it--or are you just a blow hard?
Mark Farris January 03, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Cks, just make another cocktail old girl everything will be OK. It's not our fault your religion is in serious decline. People like you object to Atheist billboards on the highway but expect your mythology to be promoted on public property? Why is it so necessary for government to promote that financial festival called X-Mas? Why isn't it acceptable for churches to promote mythology and government to represent tax payers? I think it would be a great idea if your church was to start paying taxes so your local govt. could hire some more people to stand around holding up that shovel.
CKS January 03, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Old girl? How do you assume what my sex is? Cocktails? You are truly showing your prejudice and ignorance. Just shows that you know nothing. Atheist billboards? Who said I object to them? You truly are a blow hard. Now take your hand out of your pants and go do something constructive with your life.
Mark Farris January 03, 2012 at 07:50 PM
cks you little rascal, I read your posts on Mom Talks and have to assume, given your choice of language, in a previous life you were a lumberjack. I know you have to be frustrated because you resent the fact the Bible states unequivocally your place is in the home, in complete obedience to a male figure. I am impressed you consider Atheist billboards on public highways OK. Can we put one up in your neighborhood? Probably should check with your pastor/preacher/reverand/rabbi before you answer.
CKS January 03, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Can we have an "occupy" in your neighborhood as well? And where will you be volunteeering your time to teach evolution? Funny you should cite the bible, given your views. Now AGAIN, take your hand out of your pants and run along. No matter what you do or try yoyu probably can't even get going.
CKS January 03, 2012 at 08:10 PM
One last thing, Mark Farris (and if that is your real name you are more stupid than I thought you were), I'm not wasting anymore time with you--you are a waste of oxygen consumption. Won't be responding to you again. Bye Bye!

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