Atheists Sue Franklin County (Indiana) Over Nativity Scene on Courthouse Grounds December 17, 2014

Atheists Sue Franklin County (Indiana) Over Nativity Scene on Courthouse Grounds

Last week, I mentioned that there was a Nativity Scene in Brookville, Indiana that has been up for over 50 years, despite warning letters (over the course of several years) from the Freedom From Religion Foundation to take it down.

Here are the only details that matter: The display is owned by the Town of Brookville and sits on the grounds of the Franklin County Courthouse.

The defenders of the display cling to the same old arguments as usual: It’s tradition. Just look away. Why do you hate Christmas?!

None of them care to address the legal issues.

The commissioners said they have been ignoring the letters, and instead rallying and fighting to keep the nativity there.

“If people don’t like the look of it I think they can look the other way, or don’t look at all. It’s been a tradition here for many, many years and I hope it’s for many more years. I think we deserve the right to put up what the community wants and I don’t think anybody else should tell us what to do,” Brookville resident Wayne Monroe said.

“We” is the key word there. Residents can put up whatever they want on their own property. The city, however, can’t promote a particular religion. It’s that simple.

Yesterday, after years of politely asking local officials to take care of this matter and nothing changing, FFRF filed a federal lawsuit against the county:

After receiving complaints by local residents, FFRF first contacted Franklin County about its unconstitutional nativity in 2010. That year the nativity scene was erected at the foot of the flag pole. FFRF renewed complaints in 2011 and 2013. The county refused to take down the religious scene, moving it closer to the courthouse entrance in 2011. Community members have held annual rallies around it, where a commissioner was quoted this year as saying, “The atheists and the liberals are taking over our country.”

“There are ample private and church grounds where religious displays may be freely placed, said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Once Franklin County enters into the religion business, conferring endorsement and preference for one religion over others, it strikes a blow at religious liberty, forcing citizens of all faiths and of no religion to support a particular expression of religion.”

As far as I can tell, the county has provided no way for non-Christian groups to put up their own displays using the same government resources.

The lawsuit calls for the display to be taken down immediately and for the county to pay all of FFRF’s relevant legal bills.

(Large portions of this article were posted earlier)

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