Boggs' decision treated the county's claim that the permit's denial was based on safety concerns as risible. The one scenario in which it could possibly contribute to an accident requires "one driver flagrantly disobeying traffic laws, while another is grossly inattentive."
"A hypothetical traffic-safety concern resting on aberrant behavior, which has never happened … in sixty years does not qualify as a significant government interest," the judge stated.
Boggs noted that in Hoepfner's March 9, 2009 letter, "not once did he use the word 'safety;' not once did he use the word 'traffic.'"
When the "district court held that … safety was at least part of the Board's motivation for denying the permit … the district court erred," Boggs stated.
Thompson told CNA that the case demonstrates the importance of citizens standing up for their rights.
This is underscored by the fact that municipalities and schools have a "knee-jerk reaction" to acquiesce to demands made by groups such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the ACLU that "Christian expressions … be removed," he said.
"There are religious expressions that are allowable in the public sphere. And in this particular case the court recognized that the reasons the road commission gave were pretextual. They were attempting to justify what they had done, because they were intimidated by the Freedom from Religion Foundation."
"The court looked at the fact that this was what we call a 'traditional public forum;' and if you allow expressions in a traditional public forum, then you cannot discriminate on the basis of the content of that expression."
"It pays to do a thorough analysis of the law before you ever tell a citizen to take something down that's been up for over 60 years," Thompson stated.
The nativity scene will remain up in Warren until Dec. 29, and will be set up again next Christmas season.