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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local Boardwalk Nativity Scene On Public Property Taken Down

Boardwalk Nativity Scene On Public Property Taken Down

A Nativity scene at the Carolina Beach Lake this holiday season.

A Menorah at the Carolina Beach Lake this holiday season.

 

One of the coves decorated at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk this year.

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach prohibits religious displays on public property at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk during the Christmas Season. One local business put up a Nativity scene along the oceanfront area of the Boardwalk and was told to remove it because of a clause in the application submitted to the Town. At the same time, there are two religious displays on public property at the Carolina Beach Lake including a Nativity scene and Menorah. (Pictured above). The Christmas By The Sea event held each year at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk hosts decorative displays on both public and private property.
There are 12 landscaping coves on public property along the oceanfront portion of the concrete walkway. Each year citizens and businesses can decorate a "cove" during the Christmas season.
One local business that decorated a cove this year (and wishes to remain anonymous) was told to remove a Nativity scene.
Another live Nativity scene on private property remains in place.
According to the application provided by the Town of Carolina Beach and required before decorating a cove, a clause contained in the application states, Religious Symbols or Themes - Federal Law prohibits the display of religious symbols or themes on publicly owned property. You must abide by this law when planning your cove decorations. If there is a question as to the religious nature of any symbols or themes, the Town Manager for the Town of Carolina Beach will make the final determination."
Mayor Dan Wilcox said last week that when the Boardwalk Makeover Group began the Christmas By The Sea events four years ago they did not have legal counsel and chose to air on the side of caution by including that clause in the application.
He said later they discovered it was not an issue but the application has remained the same over the years without issue because there has traditionally been a live Nativity scene as part of the event located on private property at the Boardwalk.
The same applies this year. There is a live Nativity scene on  privately owned property on Friday and Saturday nights as part of the Christmas by the Sea celebration in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
The Town of Carolina Beach is no stranger to the issue of religious displays on public property. In 2003 the Town encountered an issue when a former Town Manager said a nativity scene at the Carolina Beach Lake could not be displayed because of legal issues.
The Town's attorney later returned to Council advising there was no liability on the part of the Town for permitting the display.
That display continues to be a part of the Island of Lights Christmas Decorations at the Carolina Beach Lake along with a Menorah, various Christmas themed displays including Santa and his reindeer.
Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin said he would consider taking the issue to the Town Council for consideration at a future meeting.
Wilcox said Tuesday December 17th, he doesn't see a problem with allowing such displays at the coves on the Boardwalk and will take the matter to the Carolina Beach Downtown Initiative meeting next month.
That group was formerly called the Boardwalk Makeover Group. Wilcox said he will ask the Board for their opinions before a decision is made.