Secularism will join nativity on display in Ind. this winter

billofrightswhitebackThe Freedom From Religion Foundation will display a Bill of Rights “nativity” and a Winter Solstice banner this year in Franklin County, Ind., to counter a nativity scene that has stood alone on public property for 50 years.

FFRF has been battling the county over this nativity since 2010, when it was erected at the foot of the flag pole. FFRF renewed complaints in 2011 and 2013. The county refused to take down the religious scene, moving it closer to the courthouse entrance in 2011. FFRF, with the ACLU of Indiana, filed a federal lawsuit over this nativity in Dec. 2014 asking the court to order the county to remove the nativity permanently.

During the course of litigation, the county decided that rather than stay neutral on religion, it would open a public forum for displays, and passed an ordinance regulating the use of its lawn by community residents and organizations. FFRF has asked to put up a display in that new forum. As a result, a federal judge Tanya Watlon Pratt dismissed FFRF’s lawsuit as moot, noting that “under pressure of the instant litigation” the county changed “the policies for courthouse displays.”

FFRF and the Satanic Temple requested to put up displays in the new forum and those requests were initially denied. So, again represented by the ACLU of Indiana, the groups filed a second lawsuit against the county. That lawsuit is pending settlement after the county agreed to allow the displays.

Gavin Rose, ACLU of Indiana Senior Staff Attorney, called the ordinance change a “tremendous victory.”

“After fifty years of Christian privilege in Franklin County, we are so pleased to be able to represent the views of freethinkers this year,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

FFRF is a national state/church watchdog with more than 23,000 members nationwide.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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