Loading
Lawsuit challenges new ban on 63-year-old Michigan roadside nativity display
Lawsuit challenges new ban on 63-year-old Michigan roadside nativity display

.- A 63-year-old tradition of having a privately maintained nativity scene on a public median in Warren, Michigan has been ended after the local road commission received a threatening letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The move has resulted in a lawsuit charging that the ban on the display is discriminatory.

In 1945 St. Anne’s Parish received a donation of Christmas nativity statues which were too large to set up inside the church. Some parishioners thought the statues and a manger could be displayed in the center of the village during the Christmas holidays.

Warren’s village president granted permission to display the nativity scene on the road median.

Since 1945, a nativity display has been erected at the location by Warren resident John Satawa and members of his family. He took over responsibility for the display from his father, Joseph Satawa, who died in 1965.

Community members, private businesses and organizations have also helped maintain the tradition.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation claimed that the presence of the nativity display violated the “constitutional principle of separation of church and state.”

In December 2008, after receiving the group’s letter, the Road Commission demanded that Satawa immediately remove the display, citing improper permits.

Satawa’s 2009 permit application was denied on the grounds the nativity display “clearly displays a religious message” in violation of the “separation of church and state.”

On October 23 the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Satawa against the Macomb County Road Commission. The suit charges that the Road Commission’s restriction violates Satawa’s First Amendment rights and his equal protection guarantee under the Fourteenth Amendment. The suit also charges that the commission’s policy decision violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause by disfavoring religion.

The Law Center filed the lawsuit to obtain a declaratory judgment that the Road Commission’s actions were unconstitutional and to secure a court order permitting the display.

Law Center attorney Robert Muise, who is handling the case, said that the U.S. Supreme Court holds that public streets are “held in the public trust” and are “properly considered traditional public forums for private speech.”

“Moreover, the Supreme Court has also stated that ‘private religious speech, far from being a First Amendment orphan, is as fully protected under the Free Speech Clause as secular private expression.’ Consequently, by restricting speech because it is religious expression, the Road Commission is imposing a content-based restriction on private speech in a traditional public forum in clear violation of the Constitution,” Muise added.

Law Center President and Chief Counsel Richard Thompson was very critical of the Road Commission’s action and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“Every Christmas holiday, militant atheists, acting like the Taliban, use the phrase ‘separation of church and state, ’ — nowhere found in our constitution — as a means of intimidating municipalities and schools into removing expressions celebrating Christmas, a National Holiday,” Thompson charged.

“Their goal is to cleanse our public square of all Christian symbols. However, the grand purpose of our Founding Fathers and the First Amendment was to protect religion, not eliminate it. Municipalities and schools should be aware that the systematic exclusion of Christmas symbols during the holiday season is itself inconsistent with the Constitution.”


Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic
Apr
24

Liturgical Calendar

April 24, 2014

Thursday within the Octave of Easter

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 24:35-48

Gospel
Date
04/24/14
04/23/14
04/22/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Acts 3:11-26
Gospel:: Lk 24:35-48

Saint of the Day

Easter Sunday »

Saint
Date
04/24/14
04/22/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 24:35-48

Homily
Date
04/24/14
04/23/14
04/22/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: