Federal Judge Cecilia Altonaga ruled yesterday that the Town of Bay Harbor Islands, Fl., must allow the public display of the Nativity.
The Thomas More Law Center had filed a federal lawsuit against town officials earlier this month after resident Sandra Snowden was denied permission to display a Nativity for the second consecutive year on public property.
In her ruling, Judge Altonaga’s explained that Snowden had shown a substantial likelihood of success on her free speech and equal protection claims, and that the town had violated the establishment clause in 2001 through 2003 by displaying only Jewish religious symbols, to the exclusion of Christian symbols, during the December holiday seasons.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the law center, said he is pleased with the ruling. “This is a great example of what can happen when Christians stand up for their right to celebrate Christmas in public,” he said.
The law center had filed a similar lawsuit last year against the Florida town of Palm Beach for its refusal display a Nativity alongside town-sanctioned Menorahs. This past May, a federal district court judge acknowledged the importance of recognizing religious holidays and ordered Palm Beach to treat all religious symbols equally.