Columbiana, AL

The City of Columbiana erected a nativity display on city-owned property, with no secular decorations nearby to offset the religious message of the display. Our complainant wrote a letter to the mayor to complain about the constitutionality of the display. The mayor read a portion of the letter during a session of the City Council and then, upon reaching a part of the letter where the writer acknowledged being an atheist, he tore the letter in half and threw it in the garbage. AU wrote a letter to the mayor and city council of Columbiana explaining that the city’s creche display violated the Establishment Clause — as did the mayor’s public disparagement of a non-Christian constituent. In 2007, Columbiana instituted a new holiday display policy purporting to allow local community groups to sponsor holiday displays, including the nativity scene. AU stated in the media that we did not feel that the policy corrected the problem. Though the city erected the creche in 2007, our complainant has informed us that in 2008 the city did not erect the nativity display. AU will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that Columbiana complies with the Constitution.