OCEANSIDE (NEWS 8) – An Oceanside church and its parishioners are fighting for their right to have a street-side Nativity scene displayed on what it claims is its own property.
The Lighthouse Christian Church is disputing with the Ranch Maintenance Agreement Board over who controls the property where the Nativity scene was placed.
The uproar started after RMA managers removed and trashed the Nativity scene, claiming it was unlawfully displayed on their property.
“[We] found the nativity scene in a heap behind the monument all jumbled. Mary’s head is missing. It’s hard to understand why the association would prefer this ugly gash in the wall to a beautiful display of the Nativity,” said Lighthouse Christian Church pastor, Mike Openshaw.
Five weeks ago, an uninsured pickup truck crashed into the church’s concrete sign. The Lighthouse Church was told they had to repair it.
“If it’s their property they can repair the sign. If it’s our property then we can display the Nativity so they can’t have it both ways,” said Pastor Openshaw.
On Monday, church members gathered on the corner of Mesa Drive and College Boulevard with signs that said, “Save our Nativity.”
“I was flabbergasted. I could not believe what these people had done to this,” said church member, Joe Snyder.
Pastor Openshaw said he received an email from RMA. “I got an angry email from the association demanding that we remove the Nativity scene by end of day Friday. We had 24 hours to get rid of it or they would remove it for us.” RMA also billed the church for alleged damage the display caused nearby flowers.
That email from the RMA manager to the pastor reads:
“Please be advised that the Nativity display placed on the broken wall is not acceptable with the Ranch Maintenance Agreement and requires immediate removal. We also wish to inform you that upon placing the placement of such display, a substantial amount of damage was incurred on the newly planted Yellow Gazania.” -Diana Garcia, RMA
In attempts to alleviate the tension, the City of Oceanside stepped in and provided a map to show where the property line divides the portion of land in dispute on the corner of Mesa Drive and College Boulevard. City officials are expected to visit the site on Tuesday to draw out the physical property line and resolve the argument.