Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Court Awards Nominal Damages Over School's Live Nativity Scene Show

In Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Concord Community Schools, (ND IN, March 6, 2017), an  Indiana federal district court awarded nominal damages totaling $10 and issued a declaratory judgment concluding that Concord High School's Christmas Spectacular as performed in 2014 and as proposed to be performed in 2015 violated the Establishment Clause. The shows included a living Nativity scene. After rejecting the school's mootness arguments, the court ruled:
The 2014 version of the Christmas Spectacular presents an even clearer case. Not only did this version of the show include the same extended living nativity scene as the proposed-2015 show, in which the nativity scene was emphasized unlike any other aspect of the show, it included a narration consisting of Bible passages read by a faculty member, telling the story of Jesus’ birth. It also lacked any context suggesting an educational or cultural purpose for this presentation, and instead focused solely on the Christmas holiday, and in particular, the religious content of that holiday. The message of endorsement conveyed by this version of the show was unmistakable. Indeed, at no point in this litigation has the School presented any argument in defense of this version of the show.
FFRF issued a press release announcing the decision. (See prior related posting.)