A months-long legal battle in Franklin County, Indiana, over a nativity scene that has been a courthouse tradition for five decades has come to a conclusion.
Though there will still be a traditional manger scene with Joseph, Mary, the wisemen and baby Jesus, there will be at least nine other displays erected alongside the nativity. One such scene is also a nativity, but it won't feature a baby Jesus in the manger.
This Christmas, the Freedom from Religion Foundation will give their own nativity a nontraditional makeover. The hallowed scene — on display at the county courthouse — will include the Statue of Liberty, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, all huddled around a manger, cradling the Bill of Rights instead of Jesus.
The display will be installed Saturday by the foundation, according to The Indianapolis Star. The courthouse grounds will also feature other secular holiday decor, such as a winter solstice banner.
The new ordinance that allows such displays is the result of a federal lawsuit filed last December by the foundation, arguing that the privately owned Nativity scene hosted on government property is at odds with the First Amendment because "it represents an endorsement of religion and has the principal effect of advancing religion," Crux reported.
As a result of the lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled that the Nativity did not, in fact, encroach on First Amendment rights, issuing an allowance for any town residents to install their own holiday displays — sacred or secular.
Those who want to participate must fill out a permit request before erecting their display. However, all applications will be approved, regardless of the message the display seeks to promote. Franklin County Commissioner Tom Wilson said that local Baptist churches have applied for a permit and will also be erecting their own Christmas scenes.
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