Baby Jesus has left the fire station.
The Nativity scene that has long appeared in December at Fire Station No. 1 in Deerfield Beach won’t be there anymore.
The city has banned all holiday displays on city-owned land that it doesn’t put up itself, and the Nativity belongs to a private business, a city spokeswoman said.
In South Florida’s multicultural melting pot of many faiths, local governments struggle with the conflicting interests of various religions and those who feel it’s important for the separation of church and state to extend to holiday decorations.
Boca Raton stopped putting up religious displays in 2011 after trying for years to find that balance and finding it was impossible, city leaders there said. Other cities, including Weston and Sunrise, have policies against religious displays.
The fear of lawsuits did in the iconic display at Hillsboro Boulevard and Federal Highway, which first went up 25 years ago.
Deerfield’s new law is based on others from around the country designed to protect cities from legal action based on choosing one kind of display over another, effectively choosing one religion over another, said City Attorney Andrew Maurodis.
The rule “means the city doesn’t have to make choices about what kinds of displays to allow,” he said.
“It doesn’t surprise me, given the secularization of society,” said Pastor Dave Gregg of the New Life Church in Deerfield Beach. “It’s disappointing, but it’s not surprising. You hear about this kind of thing all the time now, and it’s sad.”
Another local pastor was even more outraged, saying it heralds the end of days.
“If you read the Bible, it says that leading up to the end days things like this will happen,” said Pastor Jeremy Earnest of First Baptist Deerfield Beach. “People will be against His name. Pulling Christ out of Christmas, pulling Him out of it, it confirms more and more of what He taught about 2,000 years ago.”
The city is still considering whether to put its own religious or secular holiday display on any city property, said spokeswoman Rebecca Medina. The decision to put a holiday display would likely be made by the city commission, Medina said. Otherwise, the city wouldn’t put up a holiday display.
The holiday display conflict has reached absurd levels in some places.
Last December in Deerfield, resident and blogger Chaz Stevens asked for and received permission to erect an 8-foot tall aluminum pole made of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans.
It was a “Festivus” pole, the symbol of a secular, fictional holiday celebrated in December and created on the television show “Seinfeld.”
He put it outside Fire Station No. 1, right next to the Nativity.
It was his way of standing up for the separation of church and state, he said, since the city hadn’t responded to requests to take down the Nativity.
“If you can’t beat them, join them,” he said. “I fought stupidity with stupidity.”