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California City Ordered To Remove Nativity Scene

December 14, 1985

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The city of Downey must remove a nativity scene from the grounds of its civic center because it violates the constitutional principle of sepration of church and state, a state judge has ruled.

Superior Court Judge Irving Shimer cited a 1978 order that Los Angeles remove a lighted cross from in front of City Hall in issuing his ruling Friday, said Carol Sobel of the American Civil Liberties Union, which had sought the removal of the nativity scene.

The nativity scene was located about 30 feet from the Downey City Hall entrance, she said.

″It exhibits a preference for one religion over any other and it exhibits a preference for religion over non-religion,″ Ms. Sobel said.

City Attorney Carl Newton cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling holding that display of a nativity scene by a city has ″a secular purpose and does not impermissibly advance religion or create excessive entanglement between religion and government.″

He said the city’s action in permitting the display of the carved figures on public property does not indicate a preference for any one religion.

Marilyn Evans, chairwoman of the Downey Christmas Association, which purchased the $3,600 hand-painted scene, said another location would be sought.

″Even the ACLU can’t do away with the Christmas spirit,″ she said.

The association bought the scene after the city discovered that the ACLU objected to Downey’s purchase of the set with public funds.

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