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Published On: Tue, Dec 22nd, 2015

Freedom From Religion, ACLU lawsuit against Indiana nativity dismissed

The Thomas More Society and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a stipulation to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a nativity scene on the Franklin County, Indiana courthouse lawn.

The suit, brought by the ACLU on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the Satanic Temple, was the second such challenge filed in the past year by the atheist organization, FFRF, over the manger that’s been displayed annually for 50 years. With the filing of this stipulation, all legal actions that had been pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana against Franklin County are concluded, without attorneys’ fees or any other costs to the county’s taxpayers.

Franklin, Indiana nativity photo/screenshot video coverage

Franklin, Indiana nativity photo/screenshot video coverage

“Religious speech is no less valuable and protected than non-religious speech under the First Amendment. These Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuits against Franklin County and the local nativity scene were in retaliation against private citizens’ exercise of their freedom of religious speech in a public forum,” said Thomas More Society Associate Counsel Jocelyn Floyd.

“We are proud to have resolved these legal cases without cost to the people of Franklin County.”

In December 2014, the ACLU of Indiana and FFRF of Wisconsin sued Franklin County, trying to force the removal of the privately-funded crèche from the courthouse, where it has adorned the lawn each Christmas season for the past half century.

Thomas More Society attorneys were successful in securing the right of Franklin County citizens to keep their nativity scene on the lawn through Christmas. The nonprofit public interest lawyers then assisted the county in formally documenting its courthouse lawn access policy, a process which resulted in the lawsuit’s dismissal.

The ALCU of Indiana filed a new lawsuit against Franklin County on behalf of FFRF in March 2015, this one including the Massachusetts based Satanic Temple. The groups challenged the county ordinance requiring displays be sponsored by citizens of Franklin County. As part of a settlement, the county agreed to accept the designation of a local contact in lieu of requiring that sponsorship be wholly by citizens of Franklin County.

As a result of this most recent court action, this year’s Christmas nativity scene on the Franklin County courthouse lawn is joined by other displays from local residents and churches, and the FFRF of Wisconsin.

 

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  1. Max says:

    The wording of this article is extremely misleading.

    What we have here is a case of a government-sponsored religious display. Such an act is unconstitutional as there is a clear separation between church and state. The ACLU was correct in their suit.

    What then happened was that Franklin County officials transferred the sponsorship of the nativity scene to private citizens. In addition, the settlement enabled the use of the county lawn to other private citizens as a free speech space for their religious (or non-religious) displays. This new scenario is a free speech matter and IS constitutional. Reading your article, this is very hard to discern.

  2. Ray says:

    Where are all the battles of exclusion for other faiths? Must have missed that

  3. Mark Moore says:

    It is too bad it takes court action to make Christians share. One would think it would be a basic part of the religion instead of arming to the teeth, forcing their prayers and unwanted blessings on others and attempting to dominate the public spaces.

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