Controversy has abounded after an Air Force base in South Carolina removed a nativity scene on Friday following complaints that it violated both the U.S. Constitution and military code.
The debate is still unfolding at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C., after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a church-state separatist group, contacted the Pentagon to voice concerns this month over the nativity display.
The organization’s president, Mikey Weinsten, said that 41 airmen complained to the group about the presence of the nativity and so the Military Religious Freedom Foundation contacted the Pentagon and the Christmas display was inevitably removed from the premises, WLTX-TV reported.
The church-state group said on its website that the display “was very sectarian in nature and a direct violation of the US Constitution as well as a blatant violation of Air Force Instruction 1-1 Section 2.11.”
Weinstein said that it took only two hours and 15 minuted for the Pentagon to ensure that the nativity was removed after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s initial complaint. A full time line of events is presented on the organization’s website.
“This becomes an issue of command endorsement of Christianity particularly since it was right next to the Christmas tree, there was a Christmas lighting that was just about to happen,” Weinstein told WLTX-TV. “We commended the Air Force for how quickly they moved after we contacted them at the Pentagon.”
But local military veteran John Sammons believes that the removal was unwarranted.
“I don’t know where a plastic baby Jesus could cause such emotional distress on somebody that they would want to get involved with the military freedom folks and then have that removed,” he told WLTX-TV.
Sammons added, “Many have died overseas today for the right for your religious freedom and it breaks my heart.”
Others have taken to Shaw Air Force Base’s Facebook page to voice their frustration over the development.
“If they claim that 1-1 2.11 was violated, what about 2.12?,” wrote one user identified as “Chris For Liberty.” “Free Exercise of Religion and Religious Accommodation. Supporting the right of free exercise of religion relates directly to the Air Force core values and the ability to maintain an effective team.”
Another called the removal a “shame” and said that “Christmas is Christ.”
The base is apparently looking for a more inclusive display, but has not yet decided on one.