A religious holiday display is at the center of a dispute between two Gettysburg, Pa.-area residents and their neighborhood homeowner association.
Mark Wivell put up Christmas decorations Dec. 16 which including a display in his mulch bed that says "Jesus," as a reminder of what he says is the reason for the season: the birth of Jesus Christ.
Wivell and his wife, Lynn, were gobsmacked when they received an email a few days later from their homeowner association asking the couple to remove the display. One of their neighbors had complained the sign was offensive, an email from the association states.
"We know that Christmas was about the birth of Jesus," Wivell said. "I was quite shocked it offended somebody, but I guess in today's world I shouldn't have been."
While the homeowner association was not concerned with the content of the sign, officials felt it was not in accordance with normal Christmas decorations and asked it be taken down, the email states.
The Wivells' dispute with the association ultimately boils down to whether the display is considered a sign or a decoration.
Wivell says it is a decoration. The homemade display consists of a piece of plywood painted white and inscribed with the name "Jesus" in red, tinsel garland. He put it in his front yard at the same time as his Mickey and Minnie Mouse Christmas decorations and even draped a strand of lights over top of the wood. A small nativity scene sits beneath it.
However, the homeowner's association says the display is considered a sign. While the content of the sign relates to the holiday season, the "size, structure, and illumination of the physical sign are the accentuating factors generating the complaint," according to a second email the association sent the Wivells Dec. 18.
A message sent to the association by the The (Hanover, Pa.) Evening Sun was not immediately returned Friday.
So far, the Wivells have not been formally cited for the display, which they plan to keep up until Jan. 15 — a date set by the homeowner association for removal of holiday decorations.
"I'm looking at this as a forum to promote what Christmas is all about," Wivell said. "We wanted our neighbors to know how we feel. I don't want this to be about me though. I want it to be about the birth of Jesus."
The Links at Gettysburg golf course posted a statement on social media Friday distancing the business from The Courtyards homeowner association.
"The Links at Gettysburg Golf Course, LLC, is a completely separate, private entity from the surrounding communities and their HOA's," the post states. "The regrettable incident involving a homeowner and their respective HOA has no reflection on our business, staff or our guests."