Brookville Town Council Votes To Relocate Courthouse Nativity Scene
By Mike Perleberg
This Nativity display at the Franklin County Courthouse in Brookville could be moving to private property across the street for the 2016 Christmas season. Photo by Mike Perleberg, Eagle Country 99.3.
(Brookville, Ind.) – The embattled Nativity scene at the Franklin County Courthouse may have a new home next Christmas season.
The Christian Nativity has been placed outside the courthouse in Brookville each Christmas season for the past 50 years. Following a 2014 lawsuit by the atheist Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nativity this year was joined outside the courthouse by other displays depicting Jesus’ life. However, there was also a contradictory display put up by the FFRF with a “Bill of Rights nativity” and a sign calling religion a myth.
The Brookville American-Democrat newspaper reports that the Brookville Town Council, which owns the Nativity display, has voted unanimously to not allow it on the courthouse lawn next year. Board members worry about the number of displays at the courthouse and the potential for more offensive exhibits.
“I don’t like the way things are now with all these other exhibits,” town board member Sam Schuck said. “If we didn’t have ours there, then maybe the (Franklin County) commissioners wouldn’t have any of the others there.”
Earlier this month, Franklin County, the FFRF and The Satanic Temple reached a settlement that could allow the Satanist group to put up their own display of a goat-headed man called “Baphomet” at the courthouse.
The town council is planning to put the Nativity on private property at FCN Bank located directly across Main Street from the courthouse lawn, according to the newspaper. Schuck said those plans have not been finalized, however.
Earlier this year, Franklin County Commissioners adopted a new ordinance formalizing the application process for courthouse lawn displays. To avoid further First Amendment lawsuits from the FFRF or others, the ordinance is content-neutral.
As long as the county ordinance remains in place, a Nativity scene could appear on the courthouse lawn next year – just not the same town-owned one that has been there each Christmas for decades.