The Knights of Columbus annual nativity scene atop Terrace City Hall on Dec. 14, 2021. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)

Nativity scene banned from B.C. town’s city hall after decades-long run

Volunteer group hoping to get Terrace to change its mind after annual tradition rejected

Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus have been removed from their customary post in a Northwest B.C. town this holiday season.

A Catholic fraternity banned from its decades-old practice of placing a nativity scene on the roof of the entrance corridor to Terrace city hall each Christmas is displeased at no longer being able to carry out the tradition.

Paul Vandermeer, the Grand Knight of the Terrace chapter of the Knights of Columbus, says the group wants to meet with Terrace Mayor Sean Bujtas to convince him to reverse the decision.

For Vandermeer the nativity scene is as much a cultural symbol as anything else related to Christmas.

“Of course we’re disappointed,” Vandermeer said, adding that the Knights refreshed the characters in the nativity scene several years ago.

City staffers, and not city council, invoked a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision stemming from a complaint made in 2007 about the City of Saguenay’s practice of holding a prayer before the start of every council meeting.

“The state’s duty to remain neutral on questions relating to religion cannot be reconciled with a benevolence that would allow it to adhere to a religious belief,” the Supreme Court indicated in a unanimous judgement.

But Vandermeer pointed out that the judgement referred to prayer and not to symbols or displays.

The decision has also generated a lot of social media comment both for and against the ban.

“It should never have been allowed in the first place. Stick to church or private property for your religious symbols to be displayed,” read one comment.

“That scene has been up every year for as long as I can remember! It has hurt no one and forces nothing on anyone! City of Terrace has done it again,” read another.

One online poll had 73 per cent of respondents agreeing that the nativity scene should be put up at city hall with 21 per cent saying they did not care and 6 per cent saying they found the practice offensive.

READ MORE: City of Terrace bans nativity scene from city hall roof

Christmasmunicipal politicsReligion

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