A federal district court in Indiana has blocked the efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union to remove a nativity scene from the courthouse lawn. The judge criticized the legal group for pushing the motion during the holiday season and demanding a “hasty resolution.”
In 2018, ACLU filed a lawsuit against Fulton County, Indiana, on behalf of a resident named Roger LaMunion who objected to the courthouse’s annual nativity scene. The legal firm claimed the display violated the First Amendment.
After failing to file an injunction for nearly two years, the ACLU requested one in recent weeks. If an injunction was granted, the nativity scene featuring Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, wise men, and shepherds, would have been removed or blocked from being displayed.
In a Nov. 25 ruling, however, U.S. District Judge Jon E. DeGuilio rejected the ACLU request, claiming the legal group failed to act in a timely manner. He said an injunction is “not possible in the timeframe the plaintiff presented this motion.”
“This case has been pending for almost two years, the parties have had months to research the issues, craft their arguments, and brief their motion, and counsel are subject-matter experts in this area to begin with,” DeGuilio wrote.
“The timing of the holiday season is no surprise, either. Yet the plaintiff now asks the Court to not only rule on his motion for an injunction, but adjudicate the case in its entirety, in the span of a few days,” he continued.
He concluded, saying the entire injunction was “plainly unreasonable” and that “neither equity nor the public interest warrant such a hasty resolution under these circumstances.”
Liberty Counsel, the religious organization that engages in litigation relating to Christian values, lauded the court’s decision. It rejoiced that the nativity scene would be displayed on the courthouse lawn where it’s been every Christmas since 1980.
“Fulton County will be able to include the Nativity scene in this year’s holiday display as they have done for many years. Publicly sponsored Nativity scenes on public property are constitutional, especially when the display includes other secular symbols of the holiday,” Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said.
“The Supreme Court and many federal courts have upheld Nativity displays. In fact, removing only the religious symbols of the holiday display would demonstrate hostility toward religion, which the First Amendment forbids,” he added.