The fight over a Christmas Nativity scene occupying space in an Indiana community continues. Two federal lawsuits have been filed against Franklin County and the Freedom From Religion Foundation is seeking monetary damages for the 50-year tradition of the Nativity scene in the public square.
According to Patheos blog Friendly Atheist, over the course of several years, FFRF wrote letters politely asking officials to remove the Nativity scene in Brookville, Indiana but had no success. FFRF has since filed a federal lawsuit against the county.
After the lawsuit was filed in December, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners had the Nativity scene removed Dec. 26 and established new rules for the square in January. Although attorneys for Franklin County filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in February, Indiana American Civil Liberties Union attorney Gavin Rose, who is representing FFRF, created a 20-page opposition of the dismissal.
IndyStar reports that in the response to the motion to dismiss the suit, Rose cited case law in which damages have been granted in similar cases and said the defendant’s motion to dismiss the suit should be denied.
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Jocelyn Floyd, a Thomas More Society attorney representing Franklin County, denies the severity of the situation and responded that a Nativity scene placed in a public space by citizens is a “far cry” from a infringement of the establishment of religion clause in the U.S. Constitution.
"There is no legitimate purpose served by, and no legal authority for the court's conducting a post mortem analysis of past actions” Floyd wrote, reported IndyStar.
A second lawsuit was filed against the county on March 24 by FFRF and the United Federation of Churches LLC after county commissioners refused to allow two groups space on the courthouse lawn because their members are not residents, as required by the Franklin County ordinance.
FFRF, which was seeking to display cutout figures celebrating the Bill of Rights, and the United Federation of Churches LLC, also known as The Satanic Temple, which wanted to display a sculpture to help others understand its beliefs, were both denied.
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According to court documents, the plaintiffs have requested the court have a U.S. marshal serve the summons and paperwork to the Franklin County commissioners in person.
Photo Credit: ACLU of Indiana via IndyStar