RAVENNA — A nativity scene that was added to the Christmas display at the Ravenna Courthouse Lawn last year won’t return after the mayor cited a conflict of church and state.

Last year, Mayor Frank Seman allowed the wooden nativity, which was painted by a city resident. The painter, who did not want to be named, said last year that she had lived in Ravenna for 12 years and had never seen a nativity on the lawn among the other decorations. She said there was huge support from the community for the nativity. The wooden display was accompanied by a sign with a Bible verse.

At the time, Seman said he believed the display was “representative of large numbers of folks in Portage County.”

This year, the organizers had reportedly planned to add an angel to the display.

The mayor said he doesn’t have a problem with the nativity personally. In fact, he’s a church-going man himself.

“I do enjoy seeing it,” he said. “But when people complained, I could not defend it. For me, if I cannot defend something when people complain, I should not be doing it. They were really taking me to task. I probably shouldn’t have allowed it last year.”

Seman said organizers of the annual Midnight Madness event recently met to discuss decoration plans for the event, which takes place the day after Thanksgiving. The committee made plans to replace some worn decorations, and that’s where the announcement about the nativity was made. He said reports that the decorations will not use the words “Merry Christmas” are false.

He said he told the “very determined lady” who put up the nativity display last year that the group is welcome to find another property owner to host the display, as long as it’s not on public land. However, there are few grassy spaces downtown that aren’t publicly owned, and one of them, Immaculate Conception Church, sets up its own nativity scene each year. Another church in Ravenna does a live nativity.

Seman is an active member of Grace Episcopal Church on West Cedar Avenue near downtown Ravenna. He said he previously served on the church’s Vestry and at one time headed that board, a position known as “senior warden.” However, he stepped down from that position because of time constraints when he became mayor.

“I’m not in this to take a stand against religion because I believe in it,” he said. “But there was a reason the founding fathers wanted to keep it separate.”