Wadena residents display Nativity scenes en masse, after atheist group threatened city

New location of Nativity scene in Wadena

After an atheist organization, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) out of Wisconsin, threatened legal action, the Wadena City Council voted unanimously to remove a long-time Nativity display from a city park.  Alpha News reported the story in mid November and the FFRF celebrated the victory, but since then, residents have pushed back.  The city’s Nativity scene has been purchased by The Wadena Ministerial Association for $25 and displayed on a lawn across the street from the town’s hospital, according to the Forum News Service.  Residents say it’s more visible at the new location.

New location of Nativity scene in Wadena
New location of Nativity scene in Wadena

City residents and former residents are posting to a “Wadena Nativity Display” Facebook page set up by Dani Sworski, who is encouraging residents to display Nativity scenes from November 27-December 31.  Sworski has stated on the page that the world record is 2,500 Nativity scenes displayed in one area.  So far, 431 have committed, 369 have said they’re interested, and 3,800 more have been invited to the group.  Residents are sharing photos from around town:

At a dental office:


At a retail center:


A local radio station:


Local lawns:

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In addition to this effort, another resident will be using the city park bandstand area, where the Nativity used to be displayed, to host a private family Christmas gathering, where he will display decorations including a nativity scene. City officials originally denied the request, but eventually approved it.

The American Center for Law and Justice reports:

Concerned by the City of Wadena’s decision, a resident of the city asked city officials if he could use an area (a bandstand) in a city park that has been designated for public discourse for his family Christmas gathering in which he would like to display his Christmas decorations that included a nativity scene. The city officials denied his request.

After he contacted the ACLJ, we reviewed the city’s bandstand usage policy and provided information regarding religious displays and equal access to public facilities for religious use to help facilitate the discussion between the individual and city officials regarding his right to use the bandstand.

We also advised the individual to resubmit his request so that it is narrowly tailored to the city’s policy that does not allow citizens to leave any materials at the bandstand at night time. He resubmitted the updated request and the city officials agreed, allowing him to use the bandstand for his family Christmas gathering.