The Utah Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says an elaborate Nativity scene at the Ogden-owned Union Station is illegal and should be dismantled immediately.

An ACLU letter dated Monday and sent to Mayor Glenn Mecham says the Christian manger scene violates the church-state separation clause in the First Amendment because it sits on city property.However, Union Station Director Bob Geier said the lighted nativity scene is legal because secular displays of Santa Claus, his reindeer and sleigh are set up 20 feet away.

"For the second consecutive year, complaints have been filed with our office regarding the display of a Nativity scene or creche in front of Ogden City's Union Depot," the ACLU letter said. "We are writing to request that this display be re moved."

Carol Gnade, executive director of the Utah ACLU chapter, said residents registering complaints requested anonymity for fear of retribution. She said the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that public property should not be sites for solely Christian-based displays like Nativity scenes.

"The court held that the display of a creche on city property violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment," she said.

However, a 1984 Supreme Court ruling - often called the "Plastic Reindeer Rule" - allows cities to display Jesus, Mary and Joseph if they are accompanied by secular figures such as St. Nick and reindeer.

Geier was not aware of any complaints. This is the second year the Nativity scene has been erected at the Union Station, he said.

"Each year we've tried to add something new," he said. "Next year we'll try to add a Frosty the Snowman."

Mecham said Tuesday the city will give thought to the ACLU request.

"When issues like this have come up in the past, we have acted accordingly," he said. "We recognize that this is a religious holiday with Christmas and Hanukkah, and we try to recognize that. We endeavor to do what is right."

Ogden City Council Chairwoman Adele Smith said the City Council won't advise the Union Station administration to dismantle the display even though the city could be named in an ACLU lawsuit if the issue is pressed.

"I will leave that decision in the hands of the station management," she said. "If they choose to leave it up, then they will have to live with it."

Smith also said that she thinks some religions feel alienated from the Ogden celebration.

"I would feel better about the manger scene if there were a menorah or a symbol of Jewish faith around the same time of year," she said.

Gnade asked Mecham to consider relocating the ornate manger scene at a local church.

"Isn't it possible that there is a church near the Union Depot property where this Nativity scene could be displayed?" she said. "Certainly, a display on private or religious property would be far more appropriate than a display on property which is supported and paid for by the city and residents."