A Florida-based Christian ministry has announced that they will not be placing a nativity scene at the capitol rotunda this Christmas season.
Florida Prayer Network posted an open letter on Facebook Saturday explaining that, unlike past years, they will not put the manger scene at the capitol rotunda in Tallahassee.
In previous years, the group's display has led to counter-displays from atheist groups who oppose the presence of the nativity on government property.
Pam Olsen, president of the network, wrote in the open letter that news of mass shootings and racial tensions in the country prompted her to want to avoid the annual debate over the display and the counter-displays.
"I truly want the message of Christ, the Son of God, born in a manger so long ago in Bethlehem, to be heard very clearly at this difficult time, instead of the dissension in the Capitol rotunda. This is not the year for that kind of debate in our rotunda," wrote Olsen.
"We pray that Christ's message of hope and peace will be communicated in a much stronger way this year from Florida's capitol, by us NOT placing the Nativity in the rotunda …"
While deciding to not place the display, Olsen added that they still support those who want to place a manger scene and may do so again in the near future.
"We are not retreating; we will continue to take a stand at Florida's Capitol for religious freedom in the public square that our Constitution affords us! May God heal our hearts and heal our nation," continued Olsen.
"America is in desperate need of God's help! We need to love God, love one another again, have hope and peace in our hearts, to act kindly and be civil to one another — this is the message of the Nativity!"
For the past couple of years, controversy and threats of legal action have abounded over the holiday displays of the Florida capitol rotunda.
Secular groups took issue with the presence of the manger scene, especially when other displays representing different religious viewpoints were absent.
When the Florida capitol explained that the rotunda was a public space, a group calling themselves the Satanic Temple attempted and eventually erected a display next to the Nativity.
At one point the Satanic display was vandalized by a self-professed "Catholic Warrior." Charges against her were eventually dropped.
In return for not placing a nativity scene at the rotunda, the Satanic Temple agreed to not a place a display at the public forum area either.
Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida reported Monday that the rotunda still includes a few displays, none of which involve an overt reference to Christmas.
"Natalee Singleton, spokeswoman for the state Department of Management Services, which oversees displays at the Capitol, said the only applications that had been submitted as of Monday morning were for a menorah display by the Chabad Lubavitch of the Panhandle-Tallahassee and for a festivus pole display by Chaz Stevens, a political blogger from Deerfield Beach," wrote Turner.
"Festivus is a 'holiday' created for the TV sitcom 'Seinfeld' as a non-commercial festival 'for the rest of us' in the Christmas and year-end holiday season."