Lawsuit Over Nativity Scene On Indiana Courthouse Lawn Dismissed

| by Nicholas Roberts
Franklin Nativity Scene.Franklin Nativity Scene.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit in Indiana filed by groups seeking to put up nonreligious displays on the courthouse lawn in the town of Brookville, which currently features a Nativity scene.

The lawsuit targeted an ordinance allowing the scene to be displayed which the county had drafted after an earlier lawsuit directly challenged the legality of the Nativity scene.

Franklin County, Indiana, had been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Satanic Temple earlier in 2015, according to the Indianapolis Star. Both groups applied for permits to put their displays outside the courthouse, but were denied.

The county denied the applications not because of the nature of the displays sought by the FFRF and the Satanic Temple, but rather, it was because of a county ordinance that allows only local groups and residents to put up displays.

The case was settled, and the county has agreed to allow non-residents to apply for permits, on the condition that they have a local contact in Franklin County or Brookville.

Global Dispatch reports that the Thomas More Society, which represented Franklin County in the lawsuit, filed for a stipulation along with the ACLU to dismiss the case.

TMS Associate Counsel Jocelyn Floyd announced on Dec. 22 that the case had been resolved with no cost to the county or taxpayers.

“Religious speech is no less valuable and protected than non-religious speech under the First Amendment,” Floyd said. "These Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuits against Franklin County and the local Nativity scene were in retaliation against private citizens’ exercise of their freedom of religious speech in a public forum."

As the case has been settled, the Nativity scene on the courthouse lawn in Brookville has been joined by other displays from local residents and churches, as well as a display from the FFRF.

Sources: Indianapolis Star, The Global Dispatch / Photo credit: ACLU via Indianapolis Star