Christians numbering in the hundreds took to the steps of City Hall in Rehoboth Beach Thursday afternoon to pray in protest after the city refused to allow a local church to display a nativity scene at the Bandstand.
With their heads bowed and eyes closed, many clutching rosaries, Christians from across Sussex County turned out to City Hall in Rehoboth Beach in the hundreds, praying that city leaders change their minds and allow a nativity scene to be displayed at the Bandstand.
“The city is trying to impeach Jesus from Christmas as well as the rest of society,” explained Kevin, a resident of Rehoboth Beach.
“I am a Catholic and I feel that Christians and Catholics are being attacked,” Anne, of Millsboro, explained. “I thought Rehoboth was an all inclusive community.”
WGMD’s Jake Smith led the prayer for half an hour alongside Father William Coco of Saint Edmond Catholic Church, who was forced to remove a nativity scene they displayed at the Bandstand last year at the demand of city leaders.
“I just want to make sure Christ is remembered at the time of Christmas,” Al, of Lewes, said. “I believe it all started with Christ.”
Christians from across Sussex County lined the street in front of City Hall, praying in unison, reciting the Lords Prayer and the Memorare.
“I think it’s terrible,” Cathy, of Lewes, said of the city’s decision. “They’re taking Christ out of Christmas. They’re benefiting from all of the tourism down here shopping for Christmas, but yet they don’t want to honor baby Jesus and Mary, it’s very sad.”
The nativity scene at the Bandstand, the foremost gathering spot in the city, has been a longstanding tradition dating back to 1938. Only up until last year did city leaders vocally oppose having a nativity displayed there when someone tried to display it.
Father Coco was pleased with the turnout Thursday and said he hopes city leaders reconsider their position and allow the nativity to be displayed. He spoke out against the city’s decision last year and is continuing to do so this year after news broke of the city’s position on the nativity nearly two weeks ago.
“We weren’t involved in any negotiations this fall,” Father Coco told WGMD’s Rob Petree in an interview last week. “They simply came to us and said it couldn’t go up but according to the City Manager, and I was told by council people, that all of these groups they talked to said they had no problem with the creche being up.”
The City of Rehoboth’s leadership has faced incredible criticism following the Mayor’s public refusal to allow Saint Edmond to display the nativity scene in an exclusive interview with WGMD.
“I don’t understand why Christians would be deeply offended,” Mayor Kuhns told our Rob Petree. “We are basically saying that on public property, with public resources comes public responsibility and this seperation of church and state is the city’s decision.”
Despite Mayor Paul Kuhns assertion that he and other city officials met with local faith-based leaders to come to a comprise earlier this year, Father Coco said that wasn’t the case and that the city did not involve his church in any negotiations.
“We weren’t involved in any negotiations this fall,” Father Coco said. “They simply came to us and said it couldn’t go up but according to the City Manager, and I was told by council people, that all of these groups they talked to said they had no problem with the creche being up.”
Father Coco said it was suggested that if he “just agreed to it being in front of the Chamber of Commerce, then this could all end.”
“Maybe that’s true, I don’t know,” Father Coco said. “But then I wouldn’t be doing what I believe to be the right thing. Christmas is about the birth of a man named Jesus Christ – that is an undisputed fact – that’s what Christmas is all about.”
It still remains unclear where the nativity will be placed amid pressure from Christians who feel the city has discriminated against their faith with their position.