WNEP Video - Courthouse - 12/17

The video is no longer available, but text from it is below.

"A nativity scene and menorah are gone after causing controversy at the Luzerne County courthouse.

The American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue if the displays were not removed.

The actual manger was taken off the lawn outside the Luzerne County courthouse Thursday morning.

As for the rest of the nativity scene and the menorah, all of that was taken inside Wednesday night and is in the the basement of the courthouse.

Luzerne County Solicitor Vito DeLuca said the American Civil Liberties Union, also known as the ACLU contacted the county 10 days ago.

It threatened to sue if Luzerne County didn't take down its holiday display which featured religious symbols such as Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The ACLU said the display outside a courthouse violates the separation of church and state clause in the U.S. Constitution.

County leaders decided to comply with the ACLU's request in order to stave off a lawsuit which could have cost tax payers legal fees of up to $175,000.

Officials stress the county didn't just "roll over on this issue" but economics were a big factor considering everything the county has on its plate right now. It is millions of dollars in debt and trying to pass a budget.

County leaders said there was no way it could have pulled off a new display in the time frame it had.

"That's one of the things we went back and forth with the ACLU on and they wouldn't say. Well if you put a Santa hat on one of the nativity scenes. That would be acceptable," said county solicitor Vito DeLuca.

"I think it's ridiculous. I don't think anyone has the right to take it. It's been around for a long time," said Katrina Gentner of Swoyersville.]

DeLuca went on to say that people in this area take their faith very seriously and it wouldn't have been right to try to throw a display together with sights like Joseph and Mary wearing Santa hats in order to fill the scene with religious and nonreligious symbols.

Officials admit the ACLU has been threatening a lawsuit against the county since the 1990s and the solicitor blames past administrations for not solving the holiday display dilemma."