Village of Elmore threatened with lawsuit over nativity scene

Village of Elmore threatened with lawsuit over nativity scene

ELMORE, OH (WTOL) - Elmore is a tiny village in Ottawa County that is not used to outside attention. But a controversy surrounding a Christmas nativity scene is making Elmore a local talking point in northwest Ohio.

"It wasn't in anybody's way. Wasn't hurting anything" resident Emily Hoferich said.

Elmore's Christmas nativity scene was moved to private property for the remainder of the holiday season. For decades it's called the village park home.

Then a group called "Freedom From Religion Foundation" threatened to sue Elmore claiming placement in a public park was a constitutional violation of separation of church and state.

The group threatened a lawsuit and village officials backed down, saying they could not afford a costly court battle.

The village moved the nativity scene to the home of former mayor Charlie Dibert. Dibert's home is across the street from the park and he allowed the scene to be placed on his property.

Still, some residents believe it should have never been removed in the first place.

"It's been up forever," resident Mike Pendleton said. "Not that forever is always right but I do believe they have the right to do that if that's what the people in town would like to have."

But for now, the yard is a temporary home for the Nativity scene. Plans are already under way to move it back to the park next year. A lawyer advised the village to make the nativity scene part of an overall holiday display.

"So as soon as we add Santa Claus, Christmas trees, candy canes with attention not drawn to the Nativity scene, legally we're in better shape," village administrator Dean Ridner said.

Village officials say they look forward to returning the scene to the park, saying they are proud to represent what they believe are Midwestern, historical and American values.

Follow WTOL:  

Download our app here

Copyright 2017 WTOL. All rights reserved.