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Newaygo Public Schools asked to remove wise men and star

By Jon Mills/WZZM-TV • Dec 1, 2018 at 4:00 PM

NEWAYGO — Newaygo Public Schools could face legal action if three wise men and a star aren't removed from one of the district's buildings.

A state association involved in separation of church and state cases put the district on notice this week.

The issue and possible removal of the display became the talk of Newaygo as residents prepared for Friday night's Christmas Walk. Residents say the display goes back more than 40 years.

"Here it's a tradition," said Stacie Johnson. "You can see it coming from White Cloud."

Johnson and more than 2,000 others have signed an online petition asking the school district to leave the wise men and star in place.

"Majority are saying leave it alone," said Johnson.

The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists believes the display violates the U.S. Constitution.

"It clearly conveys the message of the Christian nativity," MACRA’s Mitch Kahle said.

The association gets involved in separation of church and state issues across Michigan on behalf of local citizens.

"We were approached by a complainant from the area," said Kahle.

The school district's attorney is working with school leaders to formulate an appropriate response.

"And they have promised to get back to us by Dec. 7," said Kahle. "You have a public school that's promoting the story of the Christian Nativity and that's not permitted under the Constitution," he added.

If the display does come down, supporters are working to secure permission to place it on a tall hill on the north end of Newaygo. They selected a site that's private property and would likely withstand any legal challenges.

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