December 20, 2010
Indiana City Treasures City-Sponsored Nativity Scene on Public Property
Brookville, IN – Liberty Counsel sent a letter offering to represent the town of Brookville and Franklin County Indiana against a challenge to their display of a nativity scene outside the county courthouse. The display has been located there for more than 40 years. The Freedom from Religion Foundation recently sent a letter claiming that it is unlawful for the government to have religious displays on public property and requested that the nativity scene be moved to a private location. This Christmas display has grown over the years and now has five life-sized lighted reindeer statues and a 10-foot lighted and decorated Christmas tree in addition to the nativity scene. Members of the local volunteer fire department erect the displays annually and the County provides the electricity to light the displays.
The United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a publicly-sponsored nativity display in Lynch v Donnelly. It found that a publicly-sponsored religious symbol erected and maintained by city officials as part of a Christmas holiday display that includes secular symbols is constitutional and in no way violates the Establishment Clause. The Court held that, viewed in the proper context of the Christmas holiday season, inclusion of a nativity scene in the display depicts the significant religious event long celebrated in the Western world and the historical origins of an event long recognized as a national holiday. Government agencies can constitutionally display their own nativity scene on their own property by including secular elements in the Christmas display.
Liberty Counsel has already helped overturn a number of “Grinch”-like decisions, including proposals to remove nativity scenes from public property, ban the singing of Christmas carols by elderly residents in senior living centers, ban the wearing of the Christmas colors of red and green by students in public schools and censor religious words from Christmas carols to be sung in public schools. Liberty Counsel successfully educated the people proposing these anti-Christmas sentiments so that they were reversed. On its Website, www.LC.org, Liberty Counsel offers a Christmas Action Pack, which includes legal memoranda to educate officials, teachers, students, employees, and others that it is legal to celebrate Christmas.
Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “The ‘Grinch’ continues to stalk public displays of Christmas. The overwhelming majority of Americans celebrates Christmas and likes to see public displays commemorating Christmas. The Constitution permits Christmas displays that include nativity scenes. To exclude Christian themes from Christmas is anti-American.”
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