North Ogden to make city Nativity display 'more inclusive'

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NORTH OGDEN — Sitting in front of city hall, and right next to a Weber County Library, a Nativity scene gets regular foot-traffic throughout the day. At times Friday, children could be seen stopping to gaze, some even touching the life-size figures on their way into the library.

"It's very beautifully done," North Ogden resident Linda Fallat said. "It lets us know that we're a nice, Christian community and all faiths blend together here."

But not everyone agrees that a religious display should be placed on government property. Mayor Brent Taylor says the city received a written complaint a couple of weeks ago.

"It was the first and we've tried to address it," Taylor said. "We've had (the Nativity display) for decades, so long that none of our employees, even the longest employees, know when it was actually first started to be put up by the city."

After some media attention, Taylor says the city received another complaint from a group called Freedom From Religion Foundation, based outside of Utah. He took the discussion to Facebook, looking for input from citizens.

Some commenters said the Nativity scene made them feel uncomfortable, and led them to wonder whether taxpayer dollars paid for it.

We got a lot of feedback, and the vast majority of our residents wanted us to keep the display up.

–Brent Taylor, North Ogden mayor

"I think that the most important factor to me is inclusion," one woman who says she grew up in a Jewish home posted. "I want to feel that my family and I feel comfortable and accepted."

"We got a lot of feedback, and the vast majority of our residents wanted us to keep the display up," Taylor said.

Rather than taking it down, Taylor says the city will seek to make the display more inclusive of other religions.

"The Supreme Court has upheld that," Taylor said. "Cities and governments can have displays as long as there's not a sole religion that's being singled out."

A small menorah and Hanukkah display now sits just inside city hall, put up with the help of Congregation Brith Sholem in Ogden. Taylor says the city will help set up a fundraiser to put a larger display outside next year.

"I really think it's important that we don't continue to push religion completely out of the public life," Taylor said. "It's not what our founding fathers intended."

Taylor says city leaders will reach out to other area religious groups in the coming months to see what they would like to have added next Christmas.


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