The president of a property association board allegedly tore down a church’s nativity scene and left it in a heap in a dispute over property lines.
Pastor Mike Openshaw of Lighthouse Christian Church in Oceanside, Calif., said the president of the Ranch Maintenance Agreement Board personally tore down the nativity scene in front of the church and left it disconnected in a pile behind the church building after a series of contradicting messages from the board, according to NBC. Openshaw said the board, which manages the land in front of the church, sent him an email demanding the nativity scene be removed, then called and apologized for the message, and finally called to say the president was tearing the Nativity down.
“I raced up here and he was already gone, and I found the Nativity scene behind the monument in a jumble all disconnected and no one was here. He had come and gone quickly,” Openshaw told NBC.
Congregants held a public demonstration in front of the church Sunday to protest the destruction of their Nativity scene, claiming that the property association was violating their religious liberty.
“This is Christmas time – to put up a Nativity is common. It’s normal,” Openshaw told NBC.
The trouble with the nativity scene began in October when members of the church set it up to cover up their church sign, or monument, after a pick up truck crashed into it. Openshaw said the church filed an insurance claim, but that the property association board claimed the church had to repair the sign since it was on church property. The property association has since reversed their claim, according to Openshaw, saying that the property actually belongs to the board.
“It’s sad as an example to our youth,” he said. “It’s sad as an example to our citizens that there’s a way to disagree and there’s a way to problem solve and that’s not it,” Openshaw told NBC.
Openshaw reached out to city officials concerning the dispute and is currently waiting for them to officially identify the property line.
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