Thursday, October 03, 2019

Court Refuses To Dismiss Challenge To Nativity Scene

In Woodring v. Jackson County, Indiana, (SD IN, Sept. 30, 2019), an Indiana federal district court refused to dismiss an Establishment Clause challenge to a nativity scene that is placed on the Jackson County courthouse lawn each December.  The court said in part:
The Court has no doubt that a lone nativity scene of this size on prominent display on government property would be one of those nativity scenes that gives a reasonable viewer the impression of religious endorsement. Here, however, the nativity scene is not on its own. It is accompanied by two other arguably secular symbols of Christmas: Santa Claus and a group of Christmas carolers.
Nevertheless, two facts alleged in Woodring’s Complaint persuade the Court that this nativity scene would give a reasonable observer the impression that the government is endorsing a religion. The first of those facts is the geography of the display. According to the Complaint, Santa and the carolers are placed “to the far side of the display, away from the side of the sidewalk where the crèche is located.” .... 
That brings the Court to the second decisive fact. The history of this display is that, for many years, it was only a nativity scene. But just recently, after a complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Jackson County added some secular symbols as a palliative.
Seymour Indiana Tribune reports on the decision.