The Law Center argued that City policy expressly discriminates against Christians by allowing the menorah to be displayed as a symbol of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah and the star and crescent to be displayed as a symbol of the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, but does not allow the Nativity to be displayed as a symbol of the Christian holiday of Christmas.
This past February, a sharply divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, sitting in New York, ruled that this policy was constitutional. Judge Chester Straub issued a 46-page statement of dissent.
The challenge was brought on behalf of Andrea Skoros and her two minor children, who are students in the New York City public school system, which is the largest in the country.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, called the City’s policy a blatant example of religious bigotry, and the panel’s decision another outrageous example of federal courts discriminating against Christians.
“Many federal courts are using the contrived endorsement test to cleanse America of Christianity. This unprincipled test allows judges to impose their ideological views under the pretext of constitutional interpretation,” said Thompson.
The “endorsement test” is a theoretical method, proposed by retired Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, of considering individual government actions and asking whether or not they might create the perception that the government is endorsing a particular religion, in presumed violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
In its petition, the Law Center is asking the court to “abandon the endorsement test because it is unworkable and incapable of consistent application.” The Law Center points out that several justices on the Court are critical of the test, including Justices Thomas, Kennedy and Scalia, and see a need for overhauling the Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence.
In the petition, the Law Center also claims that New York City’s policy is unconstitutional because it is hostile toward the Christian religion. It argues: “The Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.”
The Thomas More Law Center is a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich.
.- The Thomas More Law Center has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review its case challenging New York City’s ban on the display of the Nativity in its public schools during Christmas.