Thursday, April 21, 2011

County's Denial of Permit For Nativity Scene On Road Median Upheld

In Satawa v. Board of County Road Commissioners of Macomb County, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42196 (ED MI, April 19, 2011), a Michigan federal district court upheld Macomb County, Michigan's refusal to permit plaintiff to set up a nativity display on the median of a heavily traveled road.  Plaintiff's family had erected the display at this site almost every year since 1945, but in 2008 the county for the first time received a complaint about it. The court concluded that the road median is not a traditional public forum, and that even if it is, the county had a compelling safety interest in banning the display.  A church, a few hundred yards away, was available as an alternative site. The court also rejected plaintiff's Establishment Clause and equal protection arguments. (See prior related posting.)