Freethought Today · April 2015

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF, ACLU file second suit against Indiana county

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a second lawsuit March 24 against Franklin County, Ind., after the county denied its application for a seasonal display about the Bill of Rights on the courthouse lawn in Brookville. FFRF is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and its Senior Staff Attorney Gavin M. Rose.

FFRF previously sued over an annual nativity display prominently placed in front of the courthouse. The county subsequently passed an ordinance declaring the courthouse lawn a public forum, where, it claimed, any citizen could put up a display with the right paperwork.

FFRF maintains that the county's practice of putting up a nativity scene every year prior to passage of the ordinance was illegal and is still pursuing its original federal lawsuit.

The Thomas More Society, a conservative Catholic legal group, has stepped in to represent the county. Jocelyn Floyd, associate counsel, claimed in a press release, "A public forum, such as the Franklin County Courthouse lawn, is open to speech from all citizens on any topic, religious speech included. If people disagree with a message being proclaimed in a public forum, the proper response is to apply and put up their own display as well, not try to shut down the displays of other citizens."

"That welcome message apparently doesn't apply to atheists," noted Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. "When FFRF applied to place a charming display celebrating the Dec. 15 'nativity' of the Bill of Rights, we were rejected. The county cannot create a public forum only for Christianity or majority views."

Similarly, when the Satanic Temple applied to place "an artistic three-dimensional sculpture" mounted on a wooden platform, its application was denied. FFRF, with the Satanic Temple as co-plaintiff, is asking the court to allow the displays.

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