Christmas Decision in April

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Holiday solution

Although the Christmas season ended several months ago, the spirit is still alive in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Towards the middle of this month, news spread of a settlement to a yearlong lawsuit, which involved the dispute over the legal right of a private organization to display a Nativity scene on municipal property. During the December 2018 to January 2019 holiday season, city workers asked that St. Edmond Catholic Church remove the wooden stable with surrounding religious statues. This Nativity scene was positioned near the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand, which serves as a popular area and focal point to the city.

In response to this request, the Catholic fraternal organization known as the Knights of Columbus filed a lawsuit against the city last June. According to the specific chapter of this organization, Knights of Columbus Star of the Sea Council 7297, the city of Rehoboth Beach violated its First Amendment right to freely exercise religious beliefs, as well as its Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. The mayor at the time of the initial removal request, Paul Kuhns, aimed to take a position of neutrality on behalf of the city and believed residents should celebrate the holiday season as they see fit. Depriving residents of the Nativity scene for the sake of an unbiased stance did not appear to be the most politically correct solution.

Rather than ignoring the existence of the various holidays that take place during the early winter months, in the 2020 holiday season, the city offered resolution by displaying a Nativity scene, a lighted menorah, Kwanzaa decorations, a snowman, and strung Christmas trees. Regarding the settlement, both parties agreed that the city would include the Nativity scene in its holiday display for two consecutive Christmases. Additionally, the city would be held liable to replace portions of the scene that may become damaged and may not unreasonably deny review of a Knights of Columbus application to host an attended holiday display.