A complaint last year by the Freedom From Religion Foundation is being credited with the absence of a nativity scene from the lawn of the courthouse in Batavia, New York.
The nativity display has been erected by the Jaycees, who, without going through administrative channels, placed the large scene on the public lawn for many years, with the city providing lighting. A councilwoman last year objected to the display, but was overruled by other council members.
After being contacted by area Foundation member Walter McBurney, the Foundation wrote Batavia officials, pointing out the obvious: the display "is in direct violation of the U.S. Supreme Court decision specifically barring nativity scenes from city hall entrances and property."
The Foundation cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision of County of Allegheny v. ACLU-Greater Pittsburgh Chapter (1989), which held:
"The government may acknowledge Christmas as a cultural phenomenon, but under the First Amendment it may not observe it as a Christian holy day by suggesting that people praise God for the birth of Jesus."
"The City of Batavia needs to obey the highest law of the land, honor the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, and respect the rights of conscience of all its citizens by telling the Jaycees to place the display where it belongs--on private property," Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote Batavia officials on behalf of the Foundation and its complainant.
The Daily News reported on Dec. 1 that the Jaycees had done just that, placing the Christian worship display in front of Oliver's Candies.
The same paper editorialized on December 7 that the "Creche move is a good move": "Its new home has better lighting, and it is more visible than it was at its previous home. And there's no possibility of confusing state and church."
It pays to complain!