ACLU of Montana Challenges County Creche Display

December 21, 1999

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BILLINGS, MT -- The ACLU of Montana today filed suit against Custer County and its commissioners in a long-running dispute over the County's insistence on displaying a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn next to a large tablet engraved with the Ten Commandments.

Refusing to heed the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Montana, Commissioner Duane Matheson recently said that "as long as he was on the commission," the nativity scene would be displayed on the courthouse lawn during December. 

"This case fundamentally is not about the Nativity Scene or the Ten Commandments, which are time-honored symbols of faith entitled to reverence," said Scott Crichton, Executive Director of the ACLU of Montana. 

"This case is about government," Crichton added. "Under our Constitution, the government has no business erecting, accepting, or maintaining religious monuments on public property. Such symbols of faith belong in churches, synagogues and homes, not courthouses and other seats of power of our secular government." 

Brigitte Anderson, President of the ACLU of Montana and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, explained that she and her family enjoy their own Nativity scene at home, moving Mary and Joseph closer to the manger each night as the day of Christ's birth approaches. 

"There are so many beautiful displays of creche scenes around the state; in private yards, outside and inside churches," she said. "Christ is not in need of government assistance." 

Crichton said that the ACLU stands committed to protecting the rights of all citizens to worship as they see fit, and to have a government that protects that right for all by staying secular and neutral. "We intend for this case to inform Custer County, and all Montana governments, that the proper role of government is to tend to the Ten Amendments, not the Ten Commandments," Crichton said. 

"We can honor both Jesus and Jefferson in this season of joy," he concluded. "It is unfortunate that Custer County has forced the filing of this lawsuit." 

 

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