The Freedom from Religion Foundation Puts Up Their Own Nativity Scene

This year, the courthouse lawn in Franklin County, Indiana will have two nativity scenes. On Nov. 29, a new nativity scene was set beside the traditional display that has been located at the courthouse for over five decades during the holiday season.

What makes the new nativity scene different is it features Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and the Statue of Liberty standing over the Bill of Rights. It was added by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).

This addition comes after a months-long legal battle between the county and the FFRF, which said that placement of a traditional nativity scene on public ground violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

In 2014, the FFRF filed a federal lawsuit saying that the display “represents an endorsement of religion and has the principal effect of advancing religion.” As a result, the Franklin County Commissioners responded by drafting a new ordinance that would allow any display on the courthouse lawn.

Rev. Mike Holman, of the nearby First Baptist Church, said, “I guess you could say we compromised with Freedom From Religion. They get their space and we get our space, it's the only way that we could settle all the arguments.”

County officials say anyone wishing to place a display on the lawn must apply for a $25 permit and all permits for inoffensive displays will be granted. Sam Grover, an attorney with the FFRF, said, “While we prefer that no displays go up, they've opened up the courthouse grounds for displays for multiple people. That's the only other way they can legally continue to allow the nativity scene on its property.”

Photo: Patheos

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