Michigan school board won’t remove three wise men display

NEWAYGO, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan school board has decided to keep a display of the three wise men at a public elementary school, despite complaints that it violates the separation of church and state.

The Newagyo Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to keep the display at Newaygo Elementary, which has been used for at least 40 years.

“This board has no desire to remove the display,” said Vince Grodus, the board’s president.

The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists filed a complaint about the decoration last month, saying that it violates the separation of church and state because it promotes one religion over others. Christians believe the three wise men — or three kings or magi — brought gifts to the baby Jesus.

The board heard public comments on the matter at the Monday meeting.

“Please, leave our wise men alone,” said parent Michael Burns. “Look away if it offends you.”

The board passed the issue over to Superintendent Peggy Mathis, asking her to ensure the decoration fits into district values and encouraging her to make changes if necessary.

“This community has said loud and clear even before tonight’s meeting that they want the display to stay,” Mathis said. “So we will look at ways to maybe make that happen, maybe enhance it, so it can stay.”

Mathis said it’s unlikely any alterations will occur before Christmas.

The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists has been involved in other challenges involving religion and public institutions. The group filed a complaint in October over a prayer said in May at a Muskegon Community College graduation ceremony.