A federal district court has dismissed a case from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of a disgruntled atheist who sought to see a country courthouse’s annual nativity display removed despite not even living in the county in question himself.
Liberty Counsel represented Indiana’s Fulton County against the lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2018 to challenge the constitutionality of the Christmas season display. The court had previously denied a preliminary injunction from the plaintiff last November, which allowed the county to display the nativity scene on its courthouse lawn in December as it has done every year since 1980.
The ACLU was also required by the court to reimburse Liberty Counsel for some of the costs of defending the locality in the lawsuit.
The ACLU and Roger Lamunion first brought a lawsuit in 2018 to challenge the constitutionality of an annual holiday display on the grounds of the courthouse. Although two Christmas seasons have already come and gone since they sued, the plaintiffs now belatedly sought a preliminary injunction as “an extraordinary and drastic remedy” to ban the Nativity scene from this year’s holiday season. In addition, Lamunion is not even a resident of Fulton County, and he has failed to demonstrate that he has suffered harm or has just cause to bring this action.
The U.S. Supreme Court and numerous federal appeals courts have recognized that government entities may recognize Christmas as a holiday and may maintain Christmas displays that include both religious and secular symbols. Therefore, this display does not violate the First Amendment and includes all the elements federal courts have held to be constitutional.
Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver, celebrated the decision, underscoring the well-established constitutionality of such displays on government property.
“Fulton County will be able to include the Nativity scene in this year’s holiday display as they have done for many years. Publicly sponsored Nativity scenes on public property are constitutional, especially when the display includes other secular symbols of the holiday. The Supreme Court and many federal courts have upheld Nativity displays. In fact, removing only the religious symbols of the holiday display would demonstrate hostility toward religion, which the First Amendment forbids,” he said.
The First Amendment protects the right of a free people to worship as they please from government restriction; it in no way restricts the government from endorsing and affirming a religious viewpoint as any quick perusal of the plethora of founding documents will reveal.
Our Founding Fathers looked to their Creator to justify the fight for liberty, naturally, our constitutional republic is designed to be utilized by a “moral and religious people,” as John Adams wrote.
“It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other,” he added.
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