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Christmas in July—Palm Beach Apologizes for Refusing Nativity Scene

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Among the many "December dilemmas" (those situations where public celebrations of Christmas may unconstitutionally endorse religion) last year, was a story in Palm Beach, Florida, in which two women were repeatedly denied the right to donate a nativity scene for a public Christmas display. Because Christmas displays often have religious connotations, many communities have stopped displaying nativity scenes on public property. However, Palm Beach, denied Maureen Donnell and Fern DeNarvaez the right to display a nativity scene while the city kept a Menorah as part of its holiday display. After Palm Beach rebuffed the women's repeated requests to include a crèche, they naturally sued.

As Terry Mattingly put it the case puts the "DUH" in Florida. As the issue heated up over the next few months, "The result was an election in which the anti-Nativity scene forces soundly defeated the pro-Nativity scene rebel alliance." Despite the election win, the city still had nativity problems. Palm Beach had already lost a church/state fight in which it refused to display—get this—a Menorah, said Mattingly, who teaches journalism at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

At the time, Mattingly criticized coverage of the issue in the Palm Beach Post. Now, he'd have to criticize the Post's lack of coverage. A Google search shows that the newspaper has yet to mention Donnell and DeNarvaez won their case and received an apology from the city.

According to the firm that represented the women, "The Town of Palm Beach, Florida this week paid $50,000 in attorney fees to the Thomas More Law Center pursuant to a previously entered federal court Consent Judgment. The Town also acknowledged and publicly apologized for its failure to respond to multiple ...

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
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Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's managing editor for news and online journalism. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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