Does the Religious Right Know No Shame?

The misleadingly-named Liberty Counsel apparently knows no shame.

It brazenly put out a news release on Oct. 15 with a totally false headline, “Nativity scene allowed on public property,” claiming: “The city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, has won a legal victory over an anti-religion group.”

That would be the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Foundation was forced to sue the city after it violated clear Supreme Court prohibitions against nativity scenes at the entrance of core government buildings, then basically said: Sue us. So we did. Litigation was deliberately dared by a city council president with political aspirations, whose actions were roundly decried by many in the community. The Freedom From Religion Foundation was implored by religionists and irreligionists alike to sue on their behalf. Our lawsuit included plaintiffs who were Lutheran, Jewish, freethought, Unitarian and other diverse beliefs, and we even had to turn some plaintiffs down in the interests of expedient filing. We have never taken such an outpouring of phone calls from distressed citizens seeking our intervention and volunteering to be plaintiffs. The controversy marred December festivities in Green Bay and dominated news, creating division and acrimony.

Following community outcry when the nativity scene was placed at the entrance and other seasonal displays were explicitly barred, City Hall declared a moratorium on all displays–except for the nativity scene, which it permitted until Dec. 26. The Foundation sued on the same date, since the rights of several of our plaintiffs had been violated (one secular sign had been vandalized; others had been refused permits) and because the Council had implied it would adopt a policy prohibiting future religious displays, but had not done so. We knew our lawsuit was necessary to ensure this story had a constitutional ending.

The mayor this week finally floated a policy barring any religious displays from city hall. The full council is expected to take up the tardy proposal soon and it is expected to pass.

A district judge ruled last week that because the city appeared to be promising no more nativity scenes, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has already won, and mooted the lawsuit. FFRF and its committed Green Bay plaintiffs can declare victory. If a secular policy is not adopted, we will go right back to court.

How can Matt Staver, the buttinsky founder of the Liberty Counsel, twist these facts to say: “nativity scene allowed on public property”? The opposite is true. But don’t take FFRF’s word for it. Read the Green Bay Press Gazette’s story, “Santa, not Jesus, OK on city property, Green Bay mayor says,” and other confirming news stories, below.

The Foundation can at least accept the compliment paid to FFRF in the Liberty Counsel’s bizarre news release: “Freedom From Religion Foundation is one of the most radical organizations in the country. . . . It is not just like the ACLU; it is more radical–and, in fact, with respect to its religious stance, [FFRF] makes the ACLU look like they’re just playing games.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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