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Holiday Displays Going Up At Franklin Co. Courthouse

Posted On November 23, 2015

By Mike Perleberg

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The Nativity scene that has been on display each Christmas season for more than 50 years outside the Franklin County Courthouse returned to the courthouse lawn on Saturday. Photo by Franklin County Observer.

(Brookville, Ind.) – The Franklin County Courthouse lawn in Brookville is shaping up to be as crowded as a shopping mall this Christmas season.

Churches from around the county erected Christmas displays on the public property during Brookville’s November Noel on Saturday. The displays include the Nativity scene that has been placed there each Christmas season for more than five decades. Last December, the Nativity prompted a First Amendment lawsuit last Christmas season by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Franklin County Commissioners responded to that lawsuit – dismissed in September – by passing an ordinance allowing lots on the courthouse lawn to be made available to people or organizations representing all viewpoints.

As of last week, there were nine applications for holiday displays approved by the county. One county resident’s application approved for a courthouse display this season will allow the Freedom from Religion Foundation to put up a Nativity scene of the Bill of Rights. It is set to go up starting on November 29.

Another secular display by Franklin County resident Steve Kristoff will be banners detailing the Winter Solstice. Kristoff has also voiced displeasure with religious symbols on a public monument in Oldenburg.

The county ordinance allows each courthouse lawn display to remain up for 45 days.

There is one pending lawsuit concerning religious displays outside the courthouse. It was filed in March by the FFRF and the Sommerville, Massachusetts-based United Federation of Churches LLC, doing business as The Satanic Temple. In the complaint, the defendants accuse Franklin County of violating their First Amendment rights because the ordinance only allows county residents to apply for a space at the courthouse. An August 24 order by judge U.S. District Court Magistrate Denise K. LaRue indicates that the suit may be headed for a settlement.

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