Federal judge denies county’s motion to dismiss Nativity case

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(Photo: Provided by ACLU of Indiana)

US District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt denied the county’s motion to dismiss a legal case regarding the display of a Nativity scene on the Jackson County Courthouse lawn, which is expected to move forward now.

Florida-based Liberty Counsel, who is representing the county, argued that the display would include both religious and secular items that would make it permissible and in accordance with a December 2018 lawsuit filed by Rebecca Woodring (county resident) in the US District Court, Southern District of Indiana.

Woodring, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, had sought a preliminary injunction to prohibit the county from placing the Nativity scene at the courthouse.

The county in response to Dec. 13th complaint filed by the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation on behalf of an unnamed individual, moved certain secular symbols closer to the Nativity, including carolers and the Santa Claus.

However, Pratt wrote in her order that the adjustments made were not enough to persuade the court to believe that the scene had been sufficiently altered by including non-religious elements to comply with the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

She further wrote, “At this stage of the proceedings, it appears that the government in Jackson County is endorsing a religion — Christianity — and that it lacks the secular purpose for erecting the Nativity scene.”

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