Militant atheists at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) are threatening to sue St. Bernard, Ohio, over the city’s Nativity scene — a Christmas display depicting the scene of Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem in the Holy Land. If FFRF follows through and files in federal court, that case could result in a historic restoration of religious liberty nationwide.
St. Bernard is a suburb of Cincinnati. For many years, the city has displayed a crèche — i.e., a Nativity scene — during the Christmas season. It is accompanied by non-biblical seasonal holiday displays as well, making this outdoor crèche similar to the one the Supreme Court upheld in its 1984 case Lynch v. Donnelly.
However, in 1989, the Supreme Court moved to the left on this issue, holding by a narrow 5-4 vote in County of Allegheny v. ACLU Greater Pittsburgh Chapter that a crèche erected on the grand staircase of a Pittsburgh courthouse violated the Constitution’s Establishment Clause (which provides that Congress cannot establish a religion, a rule the Court in 1947 extended to state and local governments). In Allegheny, the justices voted 6-3 to allow a menorah and Christmas tree in the park outside the courthouse.
That case was strongly denounced by originalists and conservatives because it invented a brand new standard called the “endorsement test” for the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Under this new rule, any government action involving faith or religion is unconstitutional if some “reasonable observer” would believe the government was endorsing religion. full story
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