Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns described the First State Satanists as his friends in response to an email the group sent to the city in support of their position to not allow a nativity scene at the Bandstand.
WGMD News submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the City of Rehoboth Beach requesting all emails pertaining to the nativity scene at the Bandstand.
Among over 60 emails, many in opposition to the city’s position, was a letter from First State Satanists supporting the city’s position.
Krys Johnson, Communications Director for the City of Rehoboth Beach, forwarded the email to Mayor Kuhns who replied and wrote: “My friends!!!”
“We wish to extend our gratitude for your continued support of separation of church and state,” the satanist group wrote to city officials.
Johnson sent the group’s remarks to both Mayor Kuhns and City Manager Sharon Lynn, writing “God Bless America.”
“It has nothing to do with the city’s feeling on Christianity or any other religion,” Mayor Kuhns claimed in an earlier interview with WGMD’s Rob Petree. “It has to do with the city policy about putting any kind of display, whether commercial, non-commercial, religious, or non-religious, on city property.”
St. Edmond Catholic Church was forced to remove a nativity scene they placed at the Bandstand last year, sparking sharp controversy in the city.
Father William Cocco, of St. Edmond, 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 over a month ago.
“We weren’t involved in any negotiations this fall,” Father Cocco told WGMD’s Rob Petree. “ 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.”
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 Cocco said that wasn’t the case and that the city did not involve his church in any negotiations and did not invite him to any such meeting.
Mayor Kuhns said he couldn’t understand why Christians would be deeply offended over his position in an interview with our Rob Petree last month.
“I don’t understand why Christians would be deeply offended,” Mayor Kuhns said. “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.”
The City gave Father Cocco the option of having the nativity scene displayed outside the Chamber of Commerce on Rehoboth Avenue, blocks away from the foremost gathering spot of the Bandstand near the beach.
Father Cocco 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 Cocco 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 scene will be placed.