The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has launched a war on Nativity scenes, suing at least two counties for displaying one at Christmas.
Liberty Counsel has responded to each attack, arguing the U.S. Supreme Court already has ruled such displays are constitutional.
In a 1984 case, Lynch v. Donnelly, the Supreme Court ordered, regarding a Nativity scene on public property: ” To forbid the use of this one passive symbol – the crèche – at the very time people are taking note of the season with Christmas hymns and carols in public schools and other public places, and while the Congress and Legislatures open sessions with prayers by paid chaplains would be a stilted over-reaction contrary to our history and to our holdings. If the presence of the crèche in this display violates the Establishment Clause, a host of other forms of taking official note of Christmas, and of our religious heritage, are equally offensive to the Constitution.”
Nevertheless, the ACLU has filed lawsuits over displays in Fulton and Jackson counties.
Liberty Counsel asked the court to dismiss the cases, noting that the displays contain the components that courts have ruled are required for constitutionality. They include that the Nativity cannot be the only element and that the decorations also include secular representations such as Santa and reindeer.
In the Fulton County case, Liberty Counsel explained to the federal court in South Bend that there was one religious symbol, a Nativity scene, and five secular symbols.
That means the display “passes constitutional muster under any formulation of the Establishment Clause test articulated by the federal courts” and the case must be dismissed.
The individual in whose name the complaint was filed, the brief states, “does nothing more than present threadbare, conclusory allegations of unconstitutionality, and thus fails to plead any plausible claim.”
The motion to dismiss continues, “When taken in context, those displays containing only Nativity scenes have been held to violate the Constitution in some cases, while displays containing a Nativity scene coupled with other, non-religious symbols of the Christmas holiday pass constitutional muster as a matter of law.”
Liberty Counsel also has asked the federal court in the New Albany division to dismiss the complaint against the Jackson County display.
“The display includes all the elements federal courts have held to be constitutional. In addition to the Nativity scene, the Jackson County display includes a large lighted Santa Claus, sleigh with Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and a group of Christmas carolers. The U.S. Supreme Court and numerous federal appeals courts have recognized that government entities may recognize Christmas as a holiday and may maintain Christmas displays that include both religious and secular symbols,” Liberty Counsel said.