Brookville (IN) Officials Finally Ban Displays (Including Nativity Scenes) on Courthouse Lawn

In December of 2014, I wrote about a Nativity Scene in Brookville, Indiana that had been up for over 50 years, despite warning letters (over the course of several years) from the Freedom From Religion Foundation to take it down.

The display, which was owned by the Town of Brookville, sat on the grounds of the Franklin County Courthouse.

Eventually FFRF filed a lawsuit reiterating the law: Either the Nativity scene had to come down or any religious or non-religious display could go up. Before a judge could resolve it, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners adopted a new policy turning the grounds into a public forum. So… fantastic, right? Everyone could put up a display! Hello, atheist bench! Hello, Flying Spaghetti Monster! Hello, giant statue of Baphomet!

There was just one caveat: Only “county citizens” would be allowed access to the courthouse grounds (which is very convenient when you have a Christian majority in the area). FFRF sued over that, too, but ultimately lost.

Last November, however, a local FFRF member filed the paperwork to put up a display in the same area. That led to a lovely Secular Nativity next to Jesus:

It features some of the Founding Fathers along with the Statue of Liberty and the Bill of Rights.

It took that incident for the Brookville Town Council to realize they didn’t want to deal with all this bullshit in the future. They voted unanimously to ban all outside displays — including the Christian Nativity — from the courthouse grounds in 2016.

This week, they took that decision a step further, making the ban on outside displays permanent:

An ordinance passed by the Franklin County, Indiana Board of Commissioners removed the lawn’s status as a designated public forum. That means displays and events by private citizens are no longer allowed there.

FFRF is thrilled with the result, but they note — with plenty of passive aggressiveness — that it shouldn’t have taken this much work to do the obvious:

We’re pleased to learn that after six years of letter writing and two lawsuits, Franklin County has finally done what we first requested in 2010,” notes FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover. “Limiting use of the courthouse lawn to government displays should ensure that the lawn remains an open and welcoming space for all community members to enjoy — regardless of their religious or nonreligious beliefs.”

It’s about damn time this story ended.

(Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were posted earlier)


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