UPDATED – 12/14/18 – The nativity scene will go up in Rehoboth Beach. St. Edmond’s has received several offers of locations to put up the nativity – including from the Rehoboth-Dewey Chamber of Commerce and Grotto Pizza. According to Chamber President Carol Everhart, the church has accepted Grotto’s offer of space on their property on Rehoboth Avenue. Last week the nativity was ordered removed from the Bandstand because the group responsible for it had not gotten a permit from the city. City officials say a better process for putting up holiday decorations on public property will be in place next year.
UPDATED – 12/10/18 – There has been much conversation around Rehoboth Beach over the weekend and online about the nativity scene being removed last week from the Bandstand area. Mayor Paul Kuhns tells WGMD’s Mike Bradley that the group that put up the nativity scene didn’t have permission from the city. He says that a local group pulled the nativity from a property rented from the city and put it up.
The removal of the nativity last week actually had nothing to do with the letter the city received from the Anti-Defamation League. That letter was received in November – and was sent to towns and cities around the country – and provided information about religious displays on public property. The letter from the ADL arrived long before the nativity was placed at the Bandstand last week.
Mayor Kuhns says the city took the letter under advisement, and Father William Cocco of St Edmond Catholic Church told WGMD that the ADL letter is opinion. However in 1984, the US Supreme Court ruled that “A nativity scene placed in the public square is not a religious symbol. It’s an instance of “ceremonial deism.”
Father Cocco also wants everyone to know that the nativity is supported by local businesses – they had nothing to do with its removal or anything that occurred since last week. He asks that people not boycott the local businesses.
They did discuss putting the nativity up with the mayor and city manager during the Community Dinner two weekends ago, but no permission for the display was given although town officials said the option for other groups to add displays, like a menorah, was also discussed. Father Cocco told WGMD he has no problem with that at all, but says what came next was a misunderstanding that snowballed. The nativity will not be on display at the bandstand this year – however there is one on St. Edmond’s property.
Mayor Kuhns says that in the future there will be a better process for groups wishing to put up displays on city property.
ORIGINAL STORY: A nativity scene placed near the Christmas tree at the Rehoboth Bandstand has been removed after the city received a letter from the Anti-Defamation League. During a special workshop session this morning, Mayor Paul Kuhns read the letter the city received and allowed the public to comment. Four people spoke in favor of keeping the nativity scene in place – including Father William Coco from St Edmond’s Catholic Church. Others reminded city officials of their original beginnings as a Seaside Christian Camp Meeting.