A Scottish shopping centre is refusing to display a nativity crib to avoid offending non-Christian customers all while promoting its Christmas market.
The Thistles centre, in the central Scottish city of Stirling, said it would not be displaying the traditional nativity because it was 'religiously and politically neutral' and did not think shoppers should be 'subjected to an individual organisation's beliefs'.
The nativity crib typically features figurines of Mary, Joseph and the three wise men standing around the baby Jesus in the manger. It is used to explain the story at the heart of Christmas and is a favourite with children.
According to The Scottish Sun newspaper, the shopping centre said it will not be reconsidering its decision despite complaints.
'Thistles shopping centre prides itself on being religiously and politically neutral in its behaviour within the local community and with this in mind we do not feel it would be right to agree to host this type of promotion within a shopping centre,' it said.
'Our customers come to enjoy a leisure activity without being subjected to individual organisation's beliefs.
'We will not be willing to reconsider the application any further and hope that this final decision is accepted.'
Despite its concerns over religious neutrality, the shopping centre has still put up Christmas decorations and is welcoming locals to shop at its Christmas market.
Stephen Kerr, the MP for Stirling who had asked the shopping centre to reconsider, said the decision was 'disappointing'.
A spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh said: 'At this time of year Christmas cribs grace many public squares all across the British Isles, bringing joy to nearly all who encounter them, regardless of their religion.
'It seems just a wee bit, well, Grinch-like for the Thistles Shopping Centre to ban the Christmas crib and, in the true spirit of Christmas, we would certainly ask them to reconsider their decision.'
The Church of Scotland was equally critical, with a spokeswoman adding: 'We find it very disappointing that the true meaning of Christmas has been completely lost here.
'When a shopping centre can focus purely on commercialism to the exclusion of the reason for the celebration of Christmas it is a sad day for all of us.'
Our Christmas Market opens tomorrow! From 1st November until December 30th, we'll be joined by @Thecraftrdshow to bring you festive treats, handmade crafts and live music
The Legion of St Mary's Association said: 'Their reason being that despite heavily promoting Christmas for commercial gain, they 'pride themselves on religious neutrality' and so won't allow a nativity to be present any longer.
'While I understand that no one wants religious or political evangelists in a shopping centre, the request was simply to have a nativity, which would be manned and anyone approaching could ask about it.'