ACLU Monitoring New Rule Regarding Nativity Scene Display in Iowa Town

December 3, 2003

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DES MOINES - The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa today said has yet to decide whether the display of a nativity scene and disclaimer in an area next to the Tipton courthouse recently designated a "public forum" by Cedar County improperly entangles government with religion.

"If indeed a genuine public forum has been created, then that may take care of it," said Ben Stone, Executive Director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union. "However, since this new public forum was only created last week, we will have to wait and see how it is operated by the county."

Despite earlier press reports to the contrary, Stone said the ICLU has not declared that it will continue to oppose the nativity display despite the existence of the disclaimer. However, he did say that local ICLU members might seek to place a Bill of Rights display on the courthouse lawn in the future.

In a November 4 letter to Cedar County Attorney Lee Beine, the ICLU noted it had received several complaints from county residents regarding previous nativity scenes and asked that the display not be erected this year. On November 24th, the ICLU was informed of a policy recently adopted by the Cedar County supervisors stating that the area surrounding the courthouse is to be considered a designated public forum.

In response, the ICLU said that, depending on implementation, the new policy may or may not resolve the Establishment Clause violation that existed in prior years. The organization said it would continue to monitor use of this forum.

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