Pastor Mike Openshaw of the Lighthouse Christian Church was confused last Thursday when he received an email telling his church to remove their Nativity scene. The email came from the Ranch Maintenance Agreement Board, the property association who says they are in charge of maintaining the land in front of the church.
In part, the email read: “Please be advised that the board of directors shall have the display removed by end of day, tomorrow, Friday if it is not done so by the Lighthouse Church.”
“I prepared a response and before I could send it, a representative of the company called me and apologized for the whole thing and we had every right to put this up,” Openshaw told NBC 7. “[She said] we could display a Nativity scene, sorry this happened, hoped I would forgive her and I said sure and thought everything was fine.”
But a couple of hours later, the same woman called back saying the president of the board was at the corner of Mesa and College removing the Nativity scene himself.
“I raced up here and he was already gone, and I found the Nativity scene behind the monument in a jumble all disconnected and no one was here. He had come and gone quickly,” Openshaw said.
The Nativity scene was placed in front of the church to cover up damage caused by a pickup truck that crashed into the church’s monument in October. Pastor Openshaw called the Ranch Maintenance Agreement Board asking for help with the repairs.
“We filed an insurance claim [but] the property association said that's our sign on our property and we have to fix it,” he explained.
Openshaw said the company is now saying the property is theirs, contrary to their statement in October. He has reached out to the city and is waiting for them to identify the property line.
While waiting to hear back, they made their voices heard Sunday with a demonstration outside of the church. “This is Christmas time – to put up a Nativity is common it’s normal,” he said.
Openshaw said he was especially dismayed by the way the president of the board disassembled the Nativity scene and left it in a heap behind the church.
“It’s sad as an example to our youth,” he said. “It’s sad as an example to our citizens that there’s a way to disagree and there’s a way to problem solve and that's not it.”
NBC 7 reached out to the Ranch Maintenance Agreement Board but has not yet heard back.