First Amendment complaint filed against county for nativity scene

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A nativity scene on the grounds of the Franklin County courthouse has become the subject of a federal lawsuit.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filed a complaint on behalf of the Wisconsin-based non-profit Freedom From Religion Foundation and two Franklin County residents who argue the religious display violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Any reasonable person viewing this display would conclude that its principal effect is to advance religion,” said ACLU of Indiana senior staff attorney Gavin Rose. “The First Amendment protects these kinds of displays by individuals and groups on private property but also makes clear that displays on public property, which is maintained by taxpayers, cannot demonstrate a preference for religion.”

The case, Freedom From Religion Foundation et al. v. Franklin County, Indiana, 1:14-cv-02047-TWP-DML, was Dec. 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.

The nativity scene at the county courthouse in Brookville does not include any non-Christian religious or secular holiday symbols. FFRF argues that by displaying the nativity scene, the county is putting its stamp of approval on Christian religious doctrine to the exclusion of other non-Christian religions.


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