A nativity scene featuring gay, lesbian and straight couples outside a church in California was reportedly vandalised on Christmas Day.

Claremont United Methodist Church had erected a large set of silhouettes around a lit tree sculpture. The silhouettes featured one gay, one lesbian and one straight couple.

At some point overnight between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the gay and lesbian couples were knocked over, the region’s Inland Daily News reported.

The straight couple in the non-traditional scene was left standing in an incident police are investigating as a hate crime.

Part of the inscription below the tree around which the figures were centered said: “We are living in a time when people need to embrace love, instead of fighting and devouring one another.”

The church held an interfaith Choose Love Vigil on Thursday night in response to the damage, which the artist who created the scene said had amounted to around $3,000 (£1,900).

Claremont was rated in 2007 the best place to live in California by CNN/Money, and the fifth best place in the US.

Sgt. Jason Walters told the Inland Daily News: “It’s a hate crime based on it being church property as well as the wooden box knocked over that depicted two males holding hands.”

In 2008, Christmas celebration featuring the Virgin Mary played by a drag queen and Joseph in black leather shorts offended Christians in Holland.

Amsterdam city council paid for the “Pink Christmas” event which was held outside a nightclub and described as a “twisted human fantasy”.