CINCINNATI (TDB) -- State officials confirmed today that Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland -- an ordained Methodist minister -- personally issued an order that restored a Nativity scene to a state park lodge. Nativities are traditional at Christmas, as are legal disputes about their placement on public property. Strickland said he wanted the issue handled with "common sense." He also said holiday scenes at other state parks should remain in place.
While there is no threat of a lawsuit of legal action against the state yet, officials said they were certain the Democratic governor would not back down.
The display had been removed by park workers last week after a complaint, or inquiry, asserted a display of Christ in a manger was an inappropriate exhibition and promotion of Christian religious material on public property. Reports said there was a demand that non-Christian items be added. The display was at Shawnee State Park Lodge and Resort, which is in Scioto County where the governor was reared in southern Ohio.
There was a demand that the Nativity scene include a Hindu swastika and a Zorastrian statue. Park manager Bill Griffin took down the display rather than add the non-Christian symbols. Strickland ordered the Nativity put back in place and said he wanted traditional displays to remain in place.
The Huntington News in West Virginia has a report about the Nativity flap today. Strickland's spokesman, Keith Dailey, said the governor was convinced the Nativity scene is appropriate:
"Gov. Strickland believes that Nativity scenes are an establishes and appropriate part of our holiday season. If someone locally suggests a symbol for Zorastrianism, for example, be included, the governor disagrees. He thinks we need to approach this with as much common sense as we can."