FFRF Files Motion to Delay Oral Arguments

In Green Bay Nativity Scene Lawsuit

Based on comments to the media by the Green Bay mayor indicating the city may adopt a policy to place only secular decorations at City Hall, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has asked the judge to delay oral arguments scheduled for Monday, Sept. 15, in its Green Bay nativity scene lawsuit.

Attorney Richard L. Bolton, on behalf of the Foundation, filed a motion for continuance yesterday. The hearing is scheduled to discuss the city’s motion to declare the Foundation lawsuit moot.

Bolton points out, “The Defendants have moved to dismiss on grounds of mootness, although no formal action has been taken by the City of Green Bay since adopting a moratorium on religious displays on city property” (except for permitting the nativity scene).

“A recent report by the Associated Press dated September 6, 2008, however, reports that the City of Green Bay could have a formal policy in place for Christmas displays in the near future. The news report indicates that Mayor Jim Schmitt ‘recently met with clergy members to get their ideas on a city policy. They agreed that the City should stick with secular decorations and leave the religious displays to area churches and synagogues.’ “

Bolton noted that Schmitt had told media he had plans to present a policy to the Council in October. Since the development “will bear upon the arguments of the parties and the decision of the court,” and “in the interest of judicial efficiency and economy,” the plaintiffs seek a continuance.

Today’s editorial in the Green Bay Press Gazette, “Leave the religion out of City Hall,” recounted the chronology of the lawsuit, in which “Schmitt broke a 6-6 tie and allowed the City Council to provoke a fight with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“Remember this all started after the city of Pestigo received a letter from the Founation protesting a nativity display in a public park, and then-council president Chad Fradette and other aldermen decided, in Fradette’s words, ‘So now the Freedom From Religion Founation can pick on somebody a little larger than Pestigo.’

The Press Gazette called this a “reckless action” that “had everything to do with picking a fight and precious little with the meaning of Christmas.”

“Keeping the city’s display secular prevents the unseemly circus we saw last year, which included vandalism to a nonChristian display. During what one (secular) song calls “the most wonderful time of the year,” Green Bay descended into the darkness of religious prejudices. Let’s not go there again.”

Noted Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor: “We have to shake our heads around here that a mayor would seek advice on legal matters relating to the separation of church and state from a group of clergy. But we have to say ‘Amen’ to that clergy advice to Mayor Schmitt. Leave the religious celebration of Christmas up to churches and private citizens, and get ‘God’ out of government!”

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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