Court Throws Out Church’s Appeal about Riverfront Display in Evansville

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
June 26, 2014 12:00 am

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West Side Christian Church Lacks Standing

June 26, 2014

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Indianapolis —Last year, in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of two Evansville residents, a federal court issued an injunction against the City of Evansville that prohibited it from allowing a display of 31 six-foot-tall plastic Latin crosses on the City’s popular Riverfront. The Court held that that the display, if it were erected, would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While the City did not appeal that decision, West Side Christian Church, which had proposed the display, filed an appeal.

Yesterday the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the Church’s appeal and left in place the injunction prohibiting display of the crosses on public property. The Court found that the Church lacked standing to appeal because the District Court’s order had been addressed exclusively to the City.
Because the City did not appeal, the Court found that no relief could be issued in favor of the Church. The Court did, however, caution that the Church’s “road ahead might not necessarily get any easier if it ever attains standing to challenge the injunction,” for, as the district court held, the display is likely unconstitutional.

“The Seventh Circuit recognized what we have maintained throughout,” said Senior Staff Attorney Gavin M. Rose of the ACLU of Indiana, that this dispute is one between the City of Evansville and its residents. The City has not given away control of its sidewalks, and therefore remains bound by the Court’s order.”

“The Constitution strikes a delicate and brilliant balance between the free exercise of religion by individuals and the prohibition of the establishment of religion by government,” said Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana executive director. “We applaud the District Court’s judgment, which remains intact, that so many large crosses crammed into a public space upset the constitutional balance.”

The ruling, Chris Cabral and Nancy Tarsitano v. City of Evansville, Indiana, Appeal of: West Side Christian Church, Case: 13-2914, was entered in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on June 25, 2014.

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