Group Challenges Courthouse Religious Display

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
December 16, 2014 2:25 pm

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Indianapolis—A lawsuit filed today on behalf of a Wisconsin-based nonprofit group that protects the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state claims that a religious display in Franklin County, Indiana violates the U.S. Constitution.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the case on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and two Franklin County residents who are also FFRF members. The lawsuit contends that the display on the grounds of the Franklin County Courthouse in Brookville, Indiana—a nativity scene that includes no non-Christian religious or secular holiday symbols—violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“Any reasonable person viewing this display would conclude that its principal effect is to advance religion,” said ACLU of Indiana Senior Staff Attorney Gavin M. Rose. “The First Amendment protects these kinds of displays by individuals and groups on private property, but also makes clear that displays on public property, which is maintained by taxpayers, cannot demonstrate a preference for religion.”

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said, “When the County displays a nativity scene on the Courthouse grounds, close to the entrance and in a prominent position, it places the County government’s stamp of approval behind the Christian religious doctrine, to the exclusion of citizens who are not Christian, such as Jews, Native American practitioners, Muslims, etc., as well as the significant and growing portion of the United States population that is not religious at all.”

FFRF has 349 members in Indiana and 21,500 members in the United States.

The case, Freedom From Religion Foundation, et al. v. Franklin County, Indiana, 1:14-cv-02047-TWP-DML was filed on Dec. 16, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.

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