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ACLU Axes Christmas

POSTED: Friday, December 18, 2009 - 10:07am

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:25pm

Pennsylvania county removes holiday displays after threat from ACLU...

The grounds of Pennsylvania's Luzerne County Courthouse are no longer home to a nativity scene or menorah.

The county decided to remove the displays under the threat of legal action.

Workers began hastily taking down the religious displays Wednesday night under legal pressure.

It all comes down to the constitution and separation of church and state.

"What's the big story now... why?," said Ken Holley of Courthouse Security, who was handling crossing guard detail.

He's worked at the courthouse the past 14-years.

Seeing the holiday displays gone troubles him.

"That's part of Christmas. I don't know why, I don't know why they're making a big stink about it," said Holley.

"They" are the ACLU and the Wilkes-Barre based Northeastern Pennsylvania Free Thought Society who threatened a court injunction.

Luzerne County commissioners realized the days of the manger and menorah settings may be numbered when they were first contacted by the ACLU a couple of weeks ago.

They didn't respond then, but when they heard from the ACLU again on Wednesday, they feared they better take action.

The decision to remove the manger and menorah is causing mixed reaction.

"I'm appalled by what's going on," said Jim Schappert of Pittston who works in the County's Recorder of Deeds office. "I just don't understand this time of year for the ACLU to come in and do something like that."

However, Joe Kraus of Kingston supports the decision and is surprised something wasn't done sooner.

"Certainly in other places I've lived, it would never have been tolerated. And around here I think it's part of our local culture that we've been doing it for a while, but I've had some discomfort at times with it," said Kraus

County Commissioner Maryanne Petrilla says the county will look into what can be done to put all symbols of the holiday season on courthouse grounds next year.

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