WADENA, Minn. (KARE) The Wadena city council voted unanimously but hesitantly to remove a beloved nativity scene from a city park Tuesday night.
Mayor George Deiss says for as long as anyone in Wadena can remember the nativity scene has been displayed at Burlington Northern Park. It used to be in the band shell, but was moved to the heart of the park last year and caught the eye of a resident.
"They were offended that we had put it out on city property," Deiss said.
He argues the display is not about religion.
"When something is put up that many years it becomes a tradition to the city," he said.
But a group from Wisconsin called the Freedom From Religion Foundation believes the scene that people have come to love so much actually violates the constitution because it does not separate church from state.
"There are a number of traditions that should be stopped and those are ones that violate the constitution. So no matter how long they've been perpetuating this illegal display, now is the time to stop it. Now that they are aware of it," Patrick Elliot an attorney with Freedom From Religion said.
Tuesday's council meeting was packed. Resident after resident spoke up in favor of keeping the display. But fear of a lawsuit convinced the council and Mayor Deiss it was time to break with tradition. They voted to donate the display to the local Ministerial Association, who can showcase the display on private property.
Each year the Freedom From Religion Foundation gets dozens of similar complaints across the country, according to Elliot. The group is currently suing a county in Indiana over its nativity scene.