Christmas was celebrated throughout the Jefferson County Schools this week, but one part of that celebration was removed recently because of concerns over separation of church and state.

A nativity scene set up in the lunchroom of Mortimer Jordan High School was removed three weeks ago, after a person complained about its presence, according to Principal Barbara Snider. She would not name the complainant.

“We didn’t know what to do, so after consulting with the school board’s attorneys, we decided it would be best to take the scene down until we could better determine the issue,” Snider said Thursday.

The nativity scene, which depicts Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus Christ in the traditional Bethlehem manger, was the only Christmas-related item removed. Trees, as well as ornaments which showed the nativity and similar scenes, remained at the school through Tuesday, when classes dismissed for the holidays.

The removal prompted an unknown person to erect a sign critical of the move  on property across the road from the school entrance. Attempts by The North Jefferson News to find those responsible for the sign were not successful.

The incident is another skirmish in the ongoing battle between groups who want all facets of religion and the public education system to be as far removed from each other as possible, and others who want public schools to be free to acknowledge religious matters in general and Christ in particular, especially during the season the celebrates his birth.

Snider said the issue would not present itself again this time next year.

“We’ll make sure we have this taken care of by then, and we’ll know what we can do,” she said.

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