FFRF Wins Against Green Bay Creche (Settlement) (January 13, 2009)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit on Dec. 26, 2007, challenging the unlawful display of a manger scene at the entrance of city hall in Green Bay, Wis., in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin. The Freedom From Religion Foundation v. City of Green Bay includes 14 individual plaintiffs of diverse religious and nonreligious views, and additionally names Green Bay City Council President Chad Fradette and Jim Schmitt, Mayor of Green Bay. Plaintiffs include Foundation members and other freethinkers, a Lutheran, a Buddhist, a Unitarian Universalist, a Wiccan and an Episcopalian. The Council president placed a nativity scene at city hall directly because the Foundation had complained about an unlawful nativity display in Peshtigo, Wis. “Public and private communications by the Defendants reflect their intent to provoke and marginalize persons who do not share their views regarding the public display and promotion of religion by the City,” the Complaint noted. The City Council placed a moratorium on the public display of any religious symbols other than the Christian Nativity scene, which “preferentially conveys endorsement, promotion and/or advancement of religion.”

Among the plaintiffs are Taku Ronsman and Wendy Coriell, who sought unsuccessfully to place other symbols at city hall, and Michael Bergman, who had expressed concern to the city over the Christian endorsement and wondered if he could display a Buddhist symbol to coincide with a major Buddhist holiday in May. The Foundation Complaint charges that “objectors and dissenters are shown to be political outsiders and discouraged from challenging the official view that public sponsorship of religious displays is an appropriate exercise of government authority.”

The Foundation dropped its appeal before the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 13, 2009, since no religious displays were permitted by the City of Green Bay, Wis., in December 2008. The Foundation is prepared to go back to court if abuses recur.

Freedom From Religion Foundation