Santa saves Iowa nativity scene from removal over constitutional concerns

TOLEDO, Iowa (AP) — A Santa figure saved an Iowa fire department’s nativity scene from being shut down following complaints that the display might violate the U.S. Constitution.

The display in the central Iowa city of Toledo was moved to a retired firefighter’s nearby lawn last week after an atheist group raised concerns that the Christian depiction at the public fire station violated the First Amendment’s prohibition on government agencies favoring one religion over others, Cedar Rapids station KCRG-TV reported Friday.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1984 ruled that manger scenes are allowed on government property depending on the context of the displays during the Christmas season and whether they have a secular purpose.

During a City Council meeting Monday, fans of the 15-year-long nativity tradition at the Toledo Fire Department pitched adding a Santa figure to keep the display on public ground.

The city confirmed that the nativity scene, plus Santa, is back up at the station.

Eastern Iowa Atheists founder Justin Scott said he’s satisfied.

“I don’t believe there’s any ill intent by the city of Toledo,” Scott told Des Moines station KCCI-TV. “I think it was just something that was nice, it was a nice gesture by a nice family. They put it up and nobody bothered to notice that it was actually a constitutional violation.”