Sumter, SC (WLTX) -- Shaw Air Force Base is making national headlines over a nativity scene.

Before the annual tree lighting ceremony at Shaw, the nativity scene next to Memorial Lake on the basewas removed after they got complaints. Now, they're getting backlash for removing the display.

John Sammons served the military for 20 years of his life but he says he never thought his religious freedom would be put to the test.

"Let us exercise our right for freedom, let us have that because we fought for it," Sammons said.

"I don't know where a plastic baby Jesus could cause such emotional distress on somebody that they would want to get involved with the military freedom folks and then have that removed," Sammons said.

The president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation said they got complaints from AirForce personneland contacted the Pentagon.

"It's called Air Force Instruction 1-1 section 2.11," Mikey Weinstein said.

Weinstein said his office received complaints of the nativity scene from 41 Shaw Airmen.

"This becomes an issue of command endorsement of Christianity particularly since it was right next to the Christmas tree, there was a Christmas lighting that was just about to happen," Weinstein said. "We commended the Air Force for how quickly they moved after we contacted them at the Pentagon."

Weinstein said after calling the Pentagon, the nativity scene was removed two hours and 15 minutes later.

Simmons, though, doesn't think that should have happened.

"To have someone just arbitrarily call the Pentagon and remove it, it's not a slap in the face, it's a kick so hard you'll never forget it.," Sammons said.

Sammons said he respects the Shaw leadership since they were only carrying out orders, but he feels that Christmas is becoming less and less about Christ.

"I believe this is probably one of the largest oxymorons you'll ever see," Sammons said. "Many have died overseas today for the right for your religious freedom and it breaks my heart."

An Air Force spokeswoman says the base wants a holiday display that reflects more than a single group, so the nativity scene was taken down.Base leaders are trying to determine the proper placement and arrangement of a new display.

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