An atheist group has succeeded in forcing the Navy to scrap an annual live nativity presentation at a naval base in Bahrain. The group, identifying itself as the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, sent a letter to the inspector general complaining that the Christmas display violated the Constitution’s supposed separation of church and state.

According to the Stars and Stripes military newspaper, the nativity display, featuring children of military personnel dressed as Mary and Joseph, shepherds, and other characters from the Gospel account, had been scheduled for December 6 during an annual holiday ceremony hosted by the Naval Support Activity in Bahrain. The event was also to have included an appearance from “Mr. and Mrs. Claus and Camel,” the paper said.

The atheist missive, sent prior to the event, complained that the nativity scene “is not just support for, but promotion of Christianity as the official religion of the base. This violates the Constitution and the mandates of the command to support all belief while privileging none.”

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