The Freedom From Religion Foundation has persuaded the city of Dover, Ohio, to transfer a nativity scene and a Ten Commandments monument from public to private property.
“The city has moved its downtown nativity scene and a granite monument bearing the Ten Commandments in the wake of a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wis.,” reports a local paper. “Both items were moved from city property on the downtown square to property owned by Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church on the west side of Wooster Avenue.”
A concerned area resident reported to FFRF last holiday season that each year during this time, the city of Dover was displaying religious exhibits on city property, and FFRF contacted the city then to let it know of the unconstitutionality of its practice.
“It is unlawful for the city of Dover to maintain, erect or host a holiday display that consists solely of a nativity scene, thus singling out, showing preference for and endorsing one religion,” wrote FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line in a letter to Mayor Richard Homrighausen back in January. “The Supreme Court has ruled it is impermissible to place a nativity scene as the sole focus of a display on government property.”
The city responded in April informing FFRF that Dover would no longer have such overtly Christian monuments on city property. Now, come holiday time, the media has been reporting on FFRF’s constitutional victory.
FFRF is especially gratified that Dover city officials followed Line’s advice in one particular aspect. Line wrote, “There are ample private and church grounds where religious displays may be freely placed,” and it is to a church that the city of Dover has gotten the exhibits relocated.
FFRF is appreciative that reason and our secular Constitution have prevailed.
“It’s when sectarian religious messaging is on public grounds that there’s a constitutional problem,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Churches and private entities are welcome to flaunt their religiosity.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 32,000 members and several chapters across the country, including almost 800 members and a chapter in Ohio. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.