Nativity scene removed from Shaw Air Force Base installed at new - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Nativity scene removed from Shaw Air Force Base installed at new location

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New location outside chapel (Source: Lindsey Graham, Facebook) New location outside chapel (Source: Lindsey Graham, Facebook)
Previous location near lake (Source: Military Religious Freedom Foundation.) Previous location near lake (Source: Military Religious Freedom Foundation.)
SUMTER, SC (WIS) -

Shaw Air Force Base is home to a Christmas controversy now playing out among conservative media and those who say the Air Force mishandled an expression of faith.

The controversy centers on the removal last Friday of a nativity scene put up on the base near Memorial Lake.

The display was reportedly dismantled in response to complaints including one from an organization called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

The organization describes itself as dedicated to ensuring that members of the Armed Forces fully receive constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.   

It cited a section of Air Force rules that say such displays have to be placed near a chapel.

John Sammons understands those rules, known as Air Force Instructions or AFI's. He served 20 years in the branch, but says someone at the top bungled this one.

"It upsets me first and foremost because I'm a Christian," said Sammons. "And my faith tells me that's what I believe in, Jesus being our father and our savior. But it mostly upsets me that we have a small group of radicals, I call them, that's coming out all the time and just slowly taking away from our Christian faith. Nativity scene. What next?"

Sammons says he'd be satisfied if the nativity scene was reinstalled close to a church, but says there was no need to remove the display altogether.

On Wednesday, Shaw AFB released the following statement on their Facebook page.

Last week a group of volunteers set up a nativity scene near Memorial Lake. All faith-based and secular groups were offered an opportunity to put up holiday displays; however, only one group elected to do so resulting in the nativity scene being the sole display.

Based on only one faith group being represented, 20th Fighter Wing officials determined the appropriate course of action was to celebrate the holiday season consistently and elected to remove the nativity scene from Memorial Lake. In previous years, the nativity scene had been displayed on the grounds of the base chapel. All faith-based and secular groups wishing to place a holiday display on the grounds of the chapel this year are encouraged to coordinate with the Shaw chaplain staff.

On Thursday, a public affairs officer told WIS the nativity scene was moved to the front of the base chapel in accordance with Air Force policy.

Copyright 2013 WIS. All rights reserved.

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