Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Decisions On Nativity Scenes On Public Property Begin To Be Made

Yesterday, the Tippecanoe County, Indiana commissioners turned down a request by a group calling itself "The Reason for the Season" that it be permitted to place a Nativity scene on the county courthouse lawn this Christmas. Proponents argued that commissioners had made the courthouse lawn an "open forum" in recent years by permitting exhibits by various charities, according to today's Lafayette (IN) Journal & Courier. Commissioners created a policy in 1999 that they would control what is displayed on the courthouse lawn. Prior to that, Nativity scenes had been placed there. Now however they permit only displays officially sponsored by the county. Some residents attending the county commission meeting complained that the county had given in to the ACLU.

Meanwhile, today's Racine (WI) Journal Times reports that Racine City Council has approved a request by Robert Wortock, backed by a group of churches, that volunteers be permitted to contruct a Nativity scene on the city's Monument Square. Now, however, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has written Mayor Gary Becker arguing that in hosting a Nativity scene, the city is endorsing a religion. A Christmas tree sponsored by the Downtown Racine Corp. will stand near the Nativity scene, and the city will place a sign nearby extending "warm season's greetings to one and all." This presumably will satisfy the requirement that a Nativity scene, accompanied by secular symbols of the season, can be permissible on public property. Racine City Council is working on a policy that will make decisions on displays such as this an administrative matter that need not come before the full Council.