Group asks 3 Wise Men display be taken down, residents of Michigan town rush to defend it

3 Wise Men display divides Michigan town

NEWAYGO, MI (WXMI/CNN) – A group’s objection to a Three Wise Men display in Michigan has inspired its own backlash from some residents and Facebook commenters.

Newaygo, north of Grand Rapids, is filled with Christmas spirit. Music and decorations are visible everywhere downtown.

But it’s the display overlooking the town that a group took issue with.

The Three Wise Men, a biblical reference to the birth of Jesus Christ, sit atop a public elementary school.

A group called the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA) wrote a letter to Newaygo Schools, asking the district to take it down, after receiving a complaint from an area resident.

“We’ve asked the school to remove what is in essence a nativity scene, from the top of the school, and from school property,” Mitch Kale of MACRA said. “If this were on private property it wouldn’t be an issue.”

MACRA posted about their complaint on Facebook, leading to hundreds of responses. Most, however, were in favor of keeping the display.

Comments like “if you don’t like it, don’t look at it,” and “whoever is offended needs to get a life,” were left on the group’s post.

Kale, though, said the uproar over something like this usually fades, pointing to a nearby town’s decision to remove a longstanding nativity scene that has largely been forgotten.

“Well we understand that the situation sometimes will make people upset,” he said. “But just like in Grand Haven, where their nativity scene has been up for 70 years, that’s now been gone for five years, the city council voted to remove it. And no one complains about it now.”

Sandy Emrich owns the Market 41 antique shop in town, and the Three Wise Men display is the view from her front window at the store.

She and several other people in town said the display has been there for decades, and they want it to stay.

“I personally don’t judge. It’s their opinion, this is my opinion,” Emrich said. “I’m a Christian also, and this is our little town, Newaygo, and we enjoy it.”

Another resident said “the symbols of Christianity and Christ’s birth mean a lot to me and to other people who are believers.”

“So I’m glad to stand up and say, ‘Leave it alone,’” she said.

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