Indiana: Appeals court rules county courthouse can display nativity scene

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by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – The US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled Tuesday that Indiana’s Jackson County courthouse is not violating the constitution by displaying a nativity scene at Christmas, the Hill reports. The 7th Circuit decision reversed last year’s District Court ruling that the display apparently endorses Christianity and has no secular purpose.

The case was brought by the Indiana American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of Jackson County resident Rebecca Woodring, the Hill reports. The plaintiffs argued that a nativity scene displayed in front of a government building was tantamount to promoting state-sanctioned religion.

Prior to the lawsuit, the Freedom From Religion Foundation asked Jackson County to remove the display, which was provided by a private Christian group, and which had been exhibited since 2003. Rather than remove the nativity scene, however, the County moved a secular display, including Santa Claus, reindeer, and candy-striped poles, closer to the nativity scene “so that all items, secular and non-secular, appeared in one field of view” in a move intended to be “permanent,” the court documents show.

Ruling in favor of Jackson County, the Court of Appeals said displaying the scene did not constitute a violation of the First Amendment provision that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

“We conclude that the County’s nativity scene is constitutional because it fits within a long national tradition of using the nativity scene in broader holiday displays to celebrate the origins of Christmas—a public holiday,” the 7th Circuit judges wrote in their ruling.

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