Ellwood, Pa. Man Takes Nativity Mobile in Fight Against FFRF

A trailer carrying a Nativity display remained parked along Lawrence Avenue in front of the Ellwood City Municipal Building Friday, and the man who helped put it there said he hoped it would remain throughout the holiday season.

“I’m going to try to keep it there at least through Christmas,” said Mike Parisi, of Ellwood City. Parisi was a vocal supporter of keeping a Nativity display on the municipal building lawn, in keeping with a borough tradition going back at least a half-century.

Parisi was on a committee earlier this year to devise a way to keep a display at the municipal building, while avoiding a threatened lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which had opposed the tradition on First Amendment establishment clause grounds.

This year, the community Nativity is on private property at the former St. Agatha Church along Fifth Street and Spring Avenue.

The trailer Nativity belongs to the Moose club in Ellwood City. Parisi, who is a Moose member, proposed putting the display on a trailer and parking it in front of the municipal building, which he did Thursday evening.

Approximately 250 people attended the Nativity’s arrival, Parisi said, and those who turned out donated approximately $275 to Mooseheart, a resident school in Illinois for children in need.

Under borough parking regulations, any trailer parked on borough streets must be connected to a towing vehicle at all times, and no trailer can remain in the same parking space for more than seven consecutive days. Ellwood City traditionally suspends enforcement of parking meters between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, allowing two hours of free parking between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the Lawrence Avenue business district.

While the trailer was not moved Friday, it was not ticketed. Parisi said he would move the trailer periodically, as necessary to remain in compliance with borough regulations.

“I want to stay within the law,” he said.

Ellwood City Mayor Anthony Court said the Nativity trailer has done that.

“As long as they comply with the law, there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.

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