What Do You Think About the Nativity Scene on the Common?

Is it appropriate for Woburn to have a religious display on the city common?


For years, the city of Woburn has decorated the common in December. Along with winter ornaments, a large nativity scene is prominently featured.

Earlier this week, Woburn Patch received a complaint from a reader who declined to leave his or her name:

"I think it's wrong that we have a religious display on the common. City funds should not be used for religious displays."

While there is a nativity scene, there are also:

  • Carolers singing in historic winter garb;
  • A Santa Claus and reindeer, including Rudolph;
  • A snowman;
  • A family of penguins.

What do you think? Is the nativity scene appropriate? In a city that has three Catholic churches, three Baptist churches, two Congregational churches, a Lutheran parish, a Methodist church and several other Christian parishes—is it OK to have a display depicting the birth of Jesus Christ on the city common?

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Mark December 06, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Atheist! LOL! It must really tick them off that "In God We Trust" is on our money and they have to carry it with them every single day. One Nation Under God! Merry Christmas Woburn! Happy Birthday Jesus!
Nancy McIntyre-Lohnes December 06, 2012 at 12:35 AM
i agee with you Kathy....I love it too.....and Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!
dan December 06, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Christianity is not a Religion; it is a Philosophy. There is not religion on the common.
Danielle Masterson (Editor) December 06, 2012 at 01:45 AM
As clearly stated in the story, there was a written complaint submitted to Woburn Patch via e-mail. It was received by nine Patch staffers and I can provide a printout of the complaint, if you feel it's necessary, to prove that it does indeed exist. For two years, I have worked hard to cover issues in Woburn fairly and responsibly and in a hyperlocal manner that is beneficial to the city, and also gives people an opportunity to voice their opinions in a public forum. I appreciate the discourse that this question has created and hope that many will continue to provide their thoughts on this and many other issues on Woburn Patch.
Chris Caesar December 06, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Dan: FYI, we are not affiliated with The Cape Cod Times.
MaryAnn Keefe December 06, 2012 at 02:29 AM
It really saddens me to think that would even happen in Woburn. There is nothing wrong with the manger or any of the other displays on the common. They are beautiful. This is going too far. They are not letting Christians have freedom of expression, displays, etc. We are not telling other people how to live their lives or how to worship or live. America is a country where people in the military give up their lives to fight for our freedom of speech, equality, freedom to worship, and choose to live our lives the way we choose as long as we're not stopping others from doing this. They have no right to tell us we can't display the manger on the common, or have "In God We Trust" on our money, We are One Nation Under God! Please leave the manger on the common, and leave the other displays there as well. God help us all, and God bless America! I say Merry Christmas!!! MaryAnn
Earnhardt December 06, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Aaron! you starting the move to England bull again? Its always the same argument with you. How sad for Woburn you moved here. I WANT my tax dollars going to it, Just as I would would those same tax dollars supporting any displays your religion wishes to display on the common. Ladies and Gentleman of Woburn. I give you Aaron, he enjoys insulting everyone and everything.
Marie December 06, 2012 at 02:46 AM
I think if the funds for the display are private donations, etc. I see no conflict with the State vs. religion. And since there seems to be a christian majority in the town, a nativity scene makes sense. Being an atheist, it doesn't appear on my radar except to remind me of my childhood. However, since we do celebrate (secularly) Hanukkah and Christmas, I wouldn't mind an addition of a Menorah...
David Chesler December 06, 2012 at 03:26 AM
MaryAnn, who is this "We" who are not telling other people how to live their lives or how to worship or live? I'm seeing it all over this forum, I'm free to worship however I wish, as long as my biggest holiday is in December. I'm free to believe anything I want, as long as I believe we are one nation under God.
David Chesler December 06, 2012 at 03:31 AM
The Common is not private. The decorations that surround the central Nativity, the support for the celebrations, the lighting are all public as well. There is a Christian majority, but that doesn't matter -- the separation of church and state is to protect minorities.
chefhockey December 06, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Mary Ann said it right. I don't think the honored Jewish war dead laying in cemeteries right here in Woburn who died for all of our freedom would approve of removing the creche any more then I do, just because some malcontent with way too much time on their hands and a serious streak of narcissism has nothing else to whine about today.
charles December 06, 2012 at 11:53 AM
A little love. We all are different and have different ideas can't we respect each other customs. Thank you and Merry Christams and God Bless to all!
Aron Levy December 06, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Why isn't everyone jumping all over David for making his point? Oh, that's right. He must not have a prior history of making strong arguments that ruffle people's feathers. And for the fills claiming that Christianity isn't a religion, but a philosophy, if that's the case I'm sure your churches (or 'philosophical lyceums') would not mind giving up their tax-exempt status? After all, they are not preaching a religion; merely discussing a philosophy! (Also, two thousand years of history and millions of dead from religious wars put the lie to your arguments.) Oh, and Earnhardt when you lack any real substance, you attack the person. I see what you did there.
Earnhardt December 06, 2012 at 04:00 PM
I learned it by watching you...
Aron Levy December 06, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Nice to see I've found myself a protege. Though looking back through your comment history, I've found you engaged in ad hominem attacks long before we first interacted. So nice try.
Sandy M. December 07, 2012 at 12:53 PM
This nativity scene has been there for decades. Removing it because a small minority think it's offensive is about as offensive as telling people of the Jewish religion that they cannot display the Star of David during Chanukah or any other religion displaying their own beliefs publicly. We have many religions in this country. It is why we are a "united" nation. Unfortunately, it seems to have become the norm to bash one religion or another simply because it's not "their" religion or because they feel it's not "politically correct." That comment this person made is terrible. If they don't like it, let them look the other way or move to a community that accepts and embraces such practices. Yes, we have the freedom of speech. We also have "freedom of religion." I haven't actually taken the time to view the common yet this year, but when I was little, it was displayed right at the corner on the bend heading onto Main Street (way before the traffic lights were there!). If I recall, it's now in a different place on the common grounds. I remember walking to it with my mom when I was a little girl (back in the mid- to late-50's!) when I lived on one of the side streets off Main St. I look forward to seeing it now that I'm back in Woburn. Yes, I think it's appropriate to have the display. It's been a part of Woburn for many decades, I believe it's part of the "fabric" of Woburn and I don't think it should change.
Walt Cassell December 07, 2012 at 01:38 PM
What's the problem here? I took my wife and 3 kids down there last night, We are not Catholic, None of us care ata ll about the nativity, My kids had a blast just walking through it all and one even sat in the Santa Sleigh on the corner. ISn't Christmas the time where we put differences aside and just enjot the season? Who cares what cicvic organization is setting it up? Who cares who is oaying the electric bill? It's not about the "Adults" who see everything as an issue, It's about bringing some cheer and lighting up what may be an otherwise bleary season. Besides, can you honetsly say as you sit in that awful 5:30 pm center traffic, that looking at the display doesn't make you chill out and calm down a little? We ate at Ixtapa afetr, another reason to bring people downtown, It;s great for the businesses. I will gladly give up a few measly dollars on my tax bill to keep this up and running. We didn't do this where I am from, This is all new to us, these types of dispalays/ Woburn, you are a special city. Now, get over this nonsense people, This hurts no one. Go mail a letter to Santa. Hope you have been good this year!
becky hassett December 07, 2012 at 05:24 PM
santa claus and saint nick are one in the same. that being said i hope everyone is aware that st, nicholas day is the 6th of december and that he was a catholic saint. maybe we should start getting rid of all those offensive santas. puleeze .! When is this craziness going to end. i think it is pitiful that people dont use their time more constructively.
Keith December 07, 2012 at 11:11 PM
I drove by the nativity scene on December 6, it looked OK to me.
Keith December 07, 2012 at 11:15 PM
How would we all feel if a symbol representing Islam was installed on the common land in Woburn? I bet people would be screaming and the gnashing of teeth would continue unabated until the object was removed.
Lee December 08, 2012 at 11:26 PM
I love it. I'm proud to live in Woburn, I am proud of my faith... The Nativity scene brings forth the warmth of the season love and goodwill toward all human kind. Why is it that some bring it to a level of so much controversy and divisiveness, the antithesis of why Christ came? I think it very beneficial if we could all take a step back and look without prejudice at one another's faith. There is much to learn... Look at the story of Christmas... Look to Hanukkah a fight for religious freedom but more importantly a relation to God. Better still look to Yom Kippur. Look to Ramadan, Look to Holi-day... If there is one thing we as human kind should have learned by now is that one cannot force beliefs.... If there is something you don't like to look at, don't. But don't try to rob another person of joy due to your own insecurity or intolerance. So have a good holiday? Which holiday? Oh Christmas. Merry Christmas. God Bless.
Noreen Kennedy December 09, 2012 at 04:07 AM
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining. this is the night of the dear Saviour's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt it's worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoiced. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angels voices! oh night divine. The night when Christ was born....the King of kings lay thus lowely manger. In all our trials born to be our friends. He knows our needs, our weakness is no stranger. Behold your King. Before Him lowly bend. Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in His name all oppression shall cease. sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, with all our hearts we praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord then ever, ever praise Him. His power and glory evermore proclaim.
everyman333 December 12, 2012 at 06:11 PM
I would like to see that just to see the reaction of all the tolerant people of Woburn. I'm sure they would welcoe the diversity -- until they were told what the star and crescent mean. But to be fair, the Festival on the Common committee should buy it and maintain the display each year.
Aron Levy December 12, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Everyman, and in your opinion, what DO the star and crescent represent?
everyman333 December 12, 2012 at 06:43 PM
is it then a matter of opinion? i only understand it as a representation of Islam from IQ's post. I'd be very interested to know the true meaning of the symbol to Muslims or anyone else. I lived in Woburn many years ago and only happened upon The Patch recently. It certainly brings back memories to read the "Get out of *my* town" tolerance I so remember from the 70s.
Aron Levy December 12, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Everyman, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. You'll have to forgive me, as I had feared you were going to start an Islophobic rant. Glad to see I was wrong!
Becky December 12, 2012 at 11:04 PM
I'm an atheist. I'm not crazy about the nativity scene, but it doesn't bother me enough to complain about it as the person who wrote to Patch did, but that's just me. I do, however, fully support that person's right to do so, and wish that he could do so without being mocked, called an idiot, a malcontent, or having his concerns reduced to "ridiculous political correctness". That, honestly, doesn't seem very Christian, so to speak. I have always thought that religion should be a private matter, between a person and his own God, whomever that may be. As an atheist, I usually keep quiet about my non-belief (and, given some of the comments here, perhaps some of you can understand why). We're not trying to spoil things for "everyone else", or trying to foist our beliefs on you. The nativity scene--which is a religious symbol is on the Common--which is public land, maintained by the City. I don't think there can be any debate about that. To some, that is a violation of separation of church and state. To me, it's a minor matter, when there are much more serious issues in the world to debate, but I do respect that others feel differently on both sides. I don't usually comment on the more contentious issues on Patch, because, quite honestly, some of the debates just get too ugly. I simply can't understand why we can't all agree to disagree and still respect differing opinions without insults and abuse.
David Chesler December 13, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Well said, Becky!
John Franson December 14, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Tolerance is the cost of liberty. A small price to pay.
David Chesler December 14, 2012 at 02:56 PM
The tolerance comes with a positive and a negative direction. The positive is tolerating others, protected by the "free exercise" clause. The negative is not taking it over for oneself, protected by the "establishment" clause. There is not always a bright line separating the point in the conflict where a free exercise is intolerably conflicting with another's free exercise, to the point where it has become an establishment. In my humble opinion, we generally do well on the free exercise side. (There are execptions, but if we were perfect we would have no need for laws.) The negative, I worry that we're talking past each as in this thread, that people can't get past "Everybody celebrates Christmas, even Jews, although they call it Chanukah" and can't see why some are concerned that the Nativity on the Common is too much of an entanglement (or too close to a slippery slope of entanglement) between state and church. There is plenty of good will here, no problem. It becomes more contentious in areas where what is right or wrong is strongly shaped by religious beliefs (we have shifted away from that in the past century in matters of Temperance or Blue Laws, but it's still an issue for things like marriage, abortion, and incest; and again I get frustrated watching people who differ on fundamentals talk past each other.) Also in areas where government incorporates custom for convenience of the users, such as the school calendar.


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