Liberty Counsel has filed a motion requesting the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana to issue summary judgment in the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU) that seeks to remove a lighted Nativity scene from the Jackson County Courthouse Christmas light display. Liberty Counsel represents Jackson County.
The display includes all the elements federal courts have held to be constitutional. In addition to the Nativity scene, the Jackson County display includes a large lighted Santa Claus, sleigh with reindeer, and a group of Christmas carolers. In addition, the courthouse grounds are decorated with many kinds of lights and other non-religious symbols of the Christmas holiday season. The U.S. Supreme Court and numerous federal appeals courts have recognized that government entities may recognize Christmas as a holiday and may maintain Christmas displays that include both religious and secular symbols.
In Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984), the United States Supreme Court held that such a Nativity scene was permissible to display on public property, stating:
“To forbid the use of this one passive symbol—the crèche—at the very time people are taking note of the season with Christmas hymns and carols in public schools and other public places, and while the Congress and Legislatures open sessions with prayers by paid chaplains would be a stilted over-reaction contrary to our history and to our holdings. If the presence of the crèche in this display violates the Establishment Clause, a host of other forms of taking official note of Christmas, and of our religious heritage, are equally offensive to the Constitution” (emphasis added).
Liberty Counsel’s Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Jackson County’s Christmas holiday display does not violate the First Amendment. The Supreme Court and many federal courts have ruled such displays are constitutional, especially when the display includes other secular symbols of the holiday, and this Christmas display in Jackson County is no exception,” said Staver.
Liberty Counsel provides a memorandum to offer guidance regarding the public displays.