The town of Deerfield Beach, Fla., has decided to ban all holiday displays on government property.
The prohibition, which is new this year, bars displays that aren’t erected by the city itself. City Attorney Andrew Maurodis told the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel that the policy is based on similar ones from around the country and is designed to prevent the appearance of city-endorsed religious displays.
“[The rule] means the city doesn’t have to make choices about what kinds of displays to allow,” Maurodis said.
But not everyone is happy about the new policy.
Pastor Dave Gregg of the New Life Church in Deerfield Beach told the Sun Sentinel, “It doesn’t surprise me, given the secularization of society. It’s disappointing, but it’s not surprising. You hear about this kind of thing all the time now, and it’s sad.”
Other local religious leaders viewed the policy as an ominous sign.
“If you read the Bible, it says that leading up to the end days things like this will happen,” Pastor Jeremy Earnest of First Baptist Deerfield Beach told the Sun Sentinel. “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.”
Hyperbole aside, the newspaper reported that the city has not yet decided whether it will put up its own displays this year and what form they will take.
Under the old policy, some pretty offbeat displays appeared in town. Last year, a Deerfield Beach resident named Chaz Stevens erected (with city permission) an eight-foot-tall “Festivus” pole crafted from aluminum beer cans. It was placed next to a nativity scene outside a city fire station.
Stevens told the newspaper that he put up the pole in defense of church-state separation after city officials didn’t respond to his request to remove the crèche.
“If you can’t beat them, join them,” Stevens said. “I fought stupidity with stupidity.”