Religion

ACLU Files Suit Against Franklin County Over Lawn Regulations

| by Corinne Gaston

The lawn rules of the Franklin County courthouse in Indiana have generated controversy with several national organizations after permits submitted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the United Federation of Churches were denied.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the United Federation of Churches both submitted permits to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners in February. They wanted to erect a display celebrating the Dec. 15 birth of the Bill of Rights on the lawn outside the courthouse. However, in January of 2015, the county had enacted Ordinance No. 2015-02, which prohibits people other than residents of Franklin County from using the courthouse lawn. Neither the Freedom From Religion Foundation nor the United Federation of Churches is a resident of that county, therefore their permits were denied.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, Indianapolis filed a lawsuit on March 24 on behalf of the two organizations.

"We are saying that the denial of the plaintiffs’ permit applications, as well as the requirement that they be residents of Franklin County in order to make use of the courthouse lawn, violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” said Kelly Jones Sharp, ACLU of Indiana Director of Communications and Education.

Thomas More Society attorney Jocelyn Floyd hopes that the case can be settled out of court, but warned that it could take as long as several years if it went through the entire legal process.

"We've been advised by our attorneys not to say anything to the press ... until something gets settled,” said Tom Wilson, Franklin County Board of Commissioners president, in response to the lawsuit.

Currently, there is another lawsuit pending against Franklin County for the life-size nativity scene that has been placed on the lawn outside the courthouse every winter for about 50 years. The ACLU has sought to have the nativity scene removed in 2014, but it was allowed to stand through Christmas.

Sources: The Herald-Tribune, WLWT 5

Image source: Patheos