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If you want to bone up on the law beforehand, read Lynch v. Donnelly — the case where a creche was held constitutional — and County of Allegheny v. ACLU — the case where the creche was not constitutional (but a Christmas + menorah was). For extra credit, read Capitol Square Review Bd. v. Pinette — which held that Ohio violated the KKK's free speech rights by not letting it put up a cross on the statehouse square. There are also the two cases about Ten Commandments displays that were decided on the same day in 2005 Van Orden v. Perry (constitutional) and McCreary County v. ACLU (unconstitutional).
The Freedom from Religion Foundation just filed suit against mayor and City Council president of Green Bay, Wisconsin, over a creche outside city hall:
Mayor [Jim] Schmitt says Christmas is a nationally-recognized holiday, and city leaders have every right to adorn city hall with Christmas flair.Expensive? The expense is the litigation.
"I'm saddened by what has all transpired here. I'm saddened by the lawsuit, by some of the divisiveness it's caused, but it's Christmas and I'm going to celebrate it," Schmitt said....
"They're sending a message of endorsement of christianity over other religions and they're sending a message of exclusion to everybody else," said Annie Laurie Gaylor....
"In my opinion, it was a very expensive for taxpayers publicity stunt by a right-wing politician," Gaylor said.
Here's an opinion piece by Dan Barker (who is the foundation's other co-president):
[S]ome of us do find the anti-humanistic nativity scene offensive since it assumes we are all sinners in need of salvation and slaves who need to humbly bow to a dictator — in a country that is supposedly proudly rebellious, having fought a Revolutionary War to expel the king, sovereign and lord.And here's my 2004 post about the Christmas decorations in the Wisconsin Capitol building, including a photograph of a sign the state allowed the Freedom from Religion Foundation to display, which tells us "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens the heart and enslaves the mind."
ADDED: Here's some background on the Green Bay creche. Don't miss the time line:
Wednesday, Dec. 12 – Schmitt is bombarded with e-mails, phone calls and criticism and praise for the display. He says the city likely will have to honor all requests for display space until the City Council can draw up guidelines and limits.Ironically, trying to make the public recognition of Christmas more serious ends up making it more of a joke. There is a symbiotic relationship between litigious atheists and pandering politicians. They serve each other's interests, but does anyone else benefit?
Thursday, Dec. 13 – City receives six formal requests to display symbols on the roof.
Friday, Dec. 15 – Practitioners of Wicca, a religion associated with witchcraft, drop off a wreath containing a pentacle, a five-pointed star used as a Wiccan symbol for the elements of nature. The wreath is installed on the entrance roof.
Saturday, Dec. 16 – City receives a request to display a plain aluminum pole, said to be a symbol of Festivus, a religion promoted by the TV show "Seinfeld."
Monday, shortly after midnight – Police receive a report someone removed the Wiccan display. Schmitt announces no displays other than the nativity scene will go on the roof until the City Council meets and decides a policy....
ADDED: I corrected mischaracterization of the creche in Lynch.
UPDATE: Gaylor ended up phoning in and only making herself available for 5 minutes. She had her points ready and reeled them out on cue. But when she took at gratuitous swipe at George Bush for closing the federal government on the day before Christmas, and I disrupted the presentation by asking if she thought the Christmas holiday violated the Establishment Clause. She refused to answer and rushed off the phone. I got the impression that she was unnerved at the idea of going off script and exposing her ideas to scrutiny. I noticed that she continually asserted that the Establishment Clause law is very clear — which is laughably wrong and therefore best to done as a monologue or when — excuse the expression — preaching to the choir.