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Group demands removal of Christmas display of three wise men, star, from Michigan school building

A Michigan school is being told it must remove its display of the Three Wise Men. This photo illustration shows a celebration at St. Peter's Square during the Feast of the Epiphany in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Newaygo Public Schools in Michigan could face legal action for having a large display of the three wise men and a star on top of a district building.

The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists this week demanded the take-down of the Christmas display because they believe it violates the separation of church and state. The association has been involved in similar state cases in the past, the WZZM-TV reported.

What did residents say?

The flap is happening even though thousands of Newaygo residents want the display – a Christmas tradition for more than 40 years - to remain.

More than 2,000 residents have reportedly signed an online petition to keep the display in place.

"Here it's a tradition," said Stacie Johnson, one of the residents participating in Friday night’s Christmas walk. "You can see it coming from White Cloud."

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

The civil rights group, on the other hand says it violates separation of church and state.

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

He also said the organization got involved following a complaint.

"We were approached by a complainant from the area," Kahle told the TV station.

The school district’s attorney is working with school leaders to issue a response.

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

What's next?

If the display must come down, supporters hope to get permission to place it on a tall hill at the north end of the city. The site is on private property and is unlikely to face any sort of legal challenge, supporters told the TV station.

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