Franklin County Nativity Scene To Stay Through Christmas
A controversial nativity scene on the Franklin County courthouse lawn will remain on display through Christmas after an agreement was reached Friday in federal court.
The Thomas More Society, a non-profit public interest law firm representing Franklin County, reached a temporary agreement concerning the lawsuit filed Dec. 16 by the ACLU on behalf of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The lawsuit contends that the nativity scene violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
“When the County displays a nativity scene on the Courthouse grounds, close to the entrance and in a prominent position, it places the county government’s stamp of approval behind the Christian religious doctrine, to the exclusion of citizens who are not Christian, such as Jews, Native American practitioners, Muslims, etc., as well as the significant and growing portion of the United States population that is not religious at all,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement.
But Peter Breen, Vice President and Senior Counsel of The Thomas More Society, says the First Amendment “protects religious speech in the public square, including nativity scenes, just as much as it protects nonreligious speech.”
“We will continue working to protect the First Amendment rights of the people of Franklin County as they express themselves in the public forum in front of their Courthouse,” Breen adds.
The lawsuit also sought an immediate injunction against Franklin County, which could have required the removal of the display before Christmas.
Under Friday’s agreement, the nativity scene will come down the day after Christmas, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation will drop its injunction request.
The larger lawsuit is still moving through the courts. Another court hearing is scheduled for Monday before U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt.