Religious symbols banned from Deerfield Beach property

City takes down menorah, nativity scene from firehouse

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter , Ben Candea

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. - A menorah and nativity scene disappeared from a firehouse after city officials -- not vandals -- removed them.

"It was up every year without a problem," said Caryl Berner, who, like in past years, placed a menorah next to a nativity scene on city property at the firehouse at Federal Highway and Hillsboro Boulevard. "This was my personal memorial actually to the Holocaust."

"I found out it was missing. It wasn't there," said Berner. "I was actually astonished and appalled.

City officials had taken down the menorah and the nativity scene.

"I felt violated," added Berner.

Six weeks ago, the city commission passed a motion banning religious symbols. Last year, Chaz Stevens, a resident and self-proclaimed atheist, put a stack of beer cans near Berner's menorah and the nativity scene to celebrate Festivus, a made-up holiday from "Seinfield."

"It was quite appalling but they allowed it," said Berner.

Mayor Jean Robb and City Attorney Andy Maroudis said they banned all holiday displays to avoid a similar incident to last year's.

"Somebody puts it up in front of their house, that's fine. We have no problem with that, that's freedom of religion," said Barry Butin, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. "It's just the city property that violates the separation of church and state."

Berner called it a step backward for Jews living in the city, especially because the city still has a Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

"The city of Deerfield Beach definitely stole Hanukkah," she said.

Berner said she hopes the city will still erect her menorah but Robb said it was unlikely to happen.

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.