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Firefighters in Trouble Over 'Merry Christmas' Billboard

Seventeen firefighters posed for a picture next to a city fire truck in a "Merry Christmas" billboard picture in Lancaster, Ohio. The billboard was up for two weeks in December 2015 before it was taken down by city officials claiming it was in violation of separation of church and state.

Lancaster City Law Director Randall Ullom told The Columbus Dispatch on Feb. 8, "I could have helped them craft a 'Seasons Greetings' message that would have protected us. My issue was the sign." Ullom sent a letter to Lancaster Fire Chief Dave Ward stating the billboard created a "civil liability for the city."

Ward stated, "They were on city time, with city property, with no authority. We have well-established policies and procedures. They were well aware of it. They chose to do this. They have to ask for permission to use city property for non-city purposes. They didn't." The firefighters, who call themselves "Super Crew 3," were suspended for various amounts of time (24-48 hours), placed on probation and given written reprimands.

Terry Bowers, president of Local 291 of the International Association of Fire Fighters stated, "They said they thought they were doing something nice for the community, and also it was a crew rivalry thing. [T]they did violate rules and policies and that's why the union got involved when the discipline was going to be handed out."

Fairfield County Prosecutor Gregg Marx argued, "I’m quite familiar with the First Amendment, and I’m sure that it doesn’t prevent these firefighters from using their own money to say ‘Merry Christmas’ on a billboard. Liberals have so badly twisted the First Amendment that some misguided people think that government workers can’t express their personal religious views. That’s just wrong.”

Photo: Cincinnati, Dispatch

Firefighters suspended over controversial holiday sign.

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