New 'Nativity' Scene At Indiana Courthouse Features Founding Fathers, Bill Of Rights

| by Jared Keever
people gathered around Freedom From Religion Foundation's Nativity displaypeople gathered around Freedom From Religion Foundation's Nativity display

There will be two nativity scenes on the courthouse lawn in Franklin County, Indiana, this year -- but one will look slightly different. 

On Nov. 29, a new nativity display was placed near the traditional display that has sat at the courthouse in Brookville during the holiday season for more than five decades, WLWT News reports. 

The new nativity scene features Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and the Statue of Liberty standing over the Bill of Rights.

It was added by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), according to an earlier story from WLWT. 

The placement comes after a months-long legal battle between the county and the FFRF, which said that placement of a traditional nativity scene on public ground violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

The FFRF filed a federal lawsuit in 2014, saying that the display “represents an endorsement of religion and has the principal effect of advancing religion.” 

The Franklin County Commissioners responded by drafting a new ordinance that would allow any display on the courthouse lawn. 

“I guess you could say we compromised with Freedom From Religion,” Rev. Mike Holman, of the nearby First Baptist Church, told WLWT. “They get their space and we get our space, it's the only way that we could settle all the arguments.”

County officials say anyone wishing to place a display on the lawn must apply for a $25 permit and all permits for inoffensive displays will be granted, regardless of whether the message is religious or not.

Sam Grover, an attorney with the FFRF, told WLWT that the new ordinance isn’t exactly what the group had been looking for, but it did get the county out of the lawsuit.

“While we prefer that no displays go up, they've opened up the courthouse grounds for displays for multiple people,” Grover said. “That's the only other way they can legally continue to allow the nativity scene on its property.”

Sources: WLWT (2) / Photo credit: Andrew L. Seidel via, Indy Star