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PO Box 112
Sioux Center, IA 51250

Centerville pastor Tony Angran is not pleased that the nativity scene in town was moved from the square. The nativity scene was on the lawn of the court house, but it was moved after someone complained and threatened to file a lawsuit, according to Angran.

“This is Christmas,” said Angran, the pastor of Solid Rock Church of God. “If you don’t want to call it a religious things, call it a decoration. It’s a Christmas decoration. They have Santa up there, they have Christmas trees up there, they have lights up there, everything else up there is for Christmas. What is Christmas without Jesus anyway?”

Angran received a text Monday from one of his parishioners. They told him the nativity scene is being taken down from the square.

“I said ‘What!'” Angran said.

The nativity scene was put up by Dr. Brad McConville, according to Angran. The church was asked if it wanted to share in it because it costs $10,000 to purchase the nativity scene. Angran wondered where it would go. He was told it’d be placed on the square.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We want to be like other communities around here. We have not had a nativity scene on the square in Centerville for several years. We gave money to it to put it up on the square because that’s where we wanted it. If it was going to be somewhere else, we probably wouldn’t do it.”

Angran asked if the group had permission and he was told the council and the chamber agreed to putting the nativity scene there.

Angran drove to the site, and sure enough, the nativity scene was gone. He wondered where it went. As he made his way through town, he saw it set up on Highway 2 across from Hardee’s. Angran asked why it was moved.

“They said because somebody had made a complaint that it offended them and they are going to file a lawsuit against the city for having it on there,” Angran said. “I said ‘So, deal with it.'”

At that point, Angran said he was irritated.

“Not because it’s moved, but because of the reason it’s moved,” he said. “Did they contact the people who purchased it? Did they contact the council? Did they contact the chamber? Come to find out, they had contacted nobody. Either the mayor or the city administrator made that determination. The council does not know about it. The chamber did not know about it. It was just a decision made by one of those people, which made me a little more irritated.”

The mayor, the fire department and the city administrator were all there when Angran arrived.

The complaint, Angran said, was anonymous.

“I try to be a calm person, but not when it comes to this,” he said. “I wasn’t so calm, so I put it on Facebook. It was appalling to me that somebody would do that.”

Facebook, Angran said, went crazy.

“We had over 500 shares and all these comments on it,” he said. “People are not happy about it. Some of the comments are not for it, but we want it put back.”

Angran said he has been in Centerville for seven years and this is the first time there was a nativity scene placed at the square.

“They had it several years ago, but for some reason they did not do it,” he said. “Every Halloween they go up there on the square and decorate and do all their Halloween stuff. They have Friday Night Thunder, which is nothing but a beer party. They have a wine and cheese tasting thing on the square. I’m offended by those things, but you know what, that’s just the world and that’s just the way it is. These people think they can do a lot about this and I’m just offended by that.”

Angran told the city administrator that he’s offended by the Santa on the square, but the city administrator just turned and walked away at that point.

Angran grew up in Albia, which is 20 miles from Centerville.

“I’m a southern Iowa boy,” he said. “These are southern Iowa people. These are strong southern Iowa people. They’re farmers, they’re hard workers. We have a lot of things going on down here in regards to poor people and people in need. We have lots of things to help and our food pantries do well. These people are good people. Man, there are a ton of them who are upset because of Baby Jesus not being on the square.”

The church put a petition on its Facebook page to put the nativity back on the square.

“I know that there are a lot of people who are signing up on there,” he said.

One woman called and said she was told everything points to the church. The mayor’s office said the mayor didn’t do it. The council did not do it. The chamber did not do it.

“The church, believe me, did not take it off,” Angran said. “She mentioned if Solid Rock is the only church upset by this. She called other churches and they didn’t know anything about it.”

The Catholic church also gives money to the nativity scene, Angran said.

While stories like this happen annually it seems, Angran said he never expected it to happen in Centerville.

“This is kind of the Bible belt of Iowa,” he said. “But, you know, there’s a lot of people who are open now that didn’t used to be open. This is about Christmas, this is about Jesus. Santa Claus, yeah, buying gifts and stuff like that, we’re doing that, but it’s not about that. It’s about Christmas and it’s about Christ at the center of it.”

Angran said there will be a forum on Monday night to discuss the incident.

“I think they’re going to have a lot more people than what they’ve anticipated,” he said. “This is not right. This is something that should not have been done the way it was done. If this person or these people wanted to fill out a petition and go through that information and put it through the council and stuff like that and the council passed it, so be it. But the way it was done, it was about two hours and boom, it was done and gone from the square and some place else.”

The Iowa Standard is a free online news source so we can reach as many people as possible. But we need to raise money! We are asking our readers to help support us as a news alternative entering 2020. If you could, please consider showing a sign of support to The Iowa Standard by making a contribution here.  Or, you can use Venmo and make a contribution to @Iowa-Standard-2018. 

You could also send a check to:
PO Box 112
Sioux Center, IA 51250

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall