The Navy was forced to cancel a live nativity scene during a holiday tree lighting ceremony at a base in Bahrain after a military atheist group complained.
According to the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, the live nativity scene was canceled after the group sent a letter to the Inspector General stating that it was biased toward Christianity.
â€œThis (referring to the live nativity) is not just support for but promotion of Christianity as the official religion of the base. This violates the Constitution and the mandates of the command to support all belief while privileging none,â€ the letter states.
The letter also said that the Muslim population in Bahrain could see the soldiers as a Christian force due to the live nativity scene, and not a secular military.
â€œThe event is billed as a â€˜holidayâ€™ event but it is nothing but a Christian activity, and it is dishonest for the command to attempt to advertise the event as a â€˜holidayâ€™ activity when it is so clearly and exclusively biased toward Christianity. â€¦ This event threatens US security and violates the Constitution as well as command policy.â€
After receiving the letter, the Inspector General promptly removed the live nativity scene from the baseâ€™s main courtyard.
â€œUpon further review, the CRP (Command Religious Program) will be removing the Living Nativity Program from the general base secular holiday festivities and co-locating it more appropriately with some of our other private religious and faith-based observances at the chapel at a separate time,â€ the Inspector Generalâ€™s office stated, according to MAAF.
Some service members stationed in Bahrain were not happy with MAAF getting involved in their Christmas ceremony.
â€œIt was horrible,â€ one unidentified officer told Fox News. â€œIt was devastating. Here we are serving in the Middle East, defending our country and other peopleâ€™s religions and we couldnâ€™t understand why we canâ€™t enjoy our own religious freedoms.â€
Despite the controversy, MAAF is happy with the decision.
â€œThis is an outcome that provides an affirming and enjoyable private Christian celebration for those interested as well as a religiously-neutral and enjoyable secular â€˜holidayâ€™ celebration for other installation personnel.â€