Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns is steadfast in his refusal to allow a nativity scene at the Bandstand ahead of the holiday season, claiming the decision “has nothing to do with the City’s feeling on Christianity.”
Mayor Kuhns appeared LIVE Monday morning in an exclusive interview with WGMD’s Mike Bradley where he stressed that the city’s decision has nothing to do with discrimination.
“Our feeling is we’re not discriminating against anybody,” Mayor Kuhns said. “We want to make sure it’s as inclusive as possible.”
Despite the Mayor’s claims that the city wants the Bandstand to be as “inclusive as possible,” the Mayor and other local leaders, including City Manager Sharon Lynn, have refused to allow Saint Edmond Catholic Church to display a nativity at the foremost gathering spot in the city, citing logistics and city policy.
“It has nothing to do with the city’s feeling on Christianity or any other religion,” Mayor Kuhns claimed. “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 Coco, 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 last week.
“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.”
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 and did not invite him to any such meeting.
Mayor Kuhns claimed otherwise and told Mike Bradley Monday morning that Father Coco was invited.
Mayor Kuhns reaffirmed his position last week in an interview where said he couldn’t understand why Christians would be deeply offended over his position.
“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 Coco the option of having the nativity scene displayed outside the Chamber of Commerce on Rehoboth Avenue, blocks and blocks away from the foremost gathering spot of the Bandstand near the beach.
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.”
Following news of the Mayor’s decision, Christians spoke out online, condemning the City’s position:
“Can’t believe this is actually happening again this year! Can’t wait to get a new Mayor! This one takes everything out of Christmas,” Karen Duke, of Rehoboth Beach wrote. “Might as well stop putting up the tree and having the parade everyone loves!”
Another resident wrote: “I would understand the Mayor’s concern if this were a permanent display – no place for religion in public places – but this is just a temporary display which represents the roots of the Holiday season as believed by a large portion of the population.”
“It is really sickening that for many, many years this nativity was proudly displayed at the bandstand,” another resident said. “Now that there is a mayor and other non-local administration is running the town they are changing tradition as well has demolishing the beautiful older homes that are part of Rehoboth’s history.”