New law bans nativity scenes at Franklin County Courthouse

Law comes year after 'secular nativity'
Posted at 6:31 PM, Oct 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-07 18:31:02-04

BROOKVILLE, Ind. -- The Franklin County Courthouse lawn will be a public forum no more.

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.

The new law comes the year after a group put up a "secular nativity display" featuring some of the U.S.'s founding fathers, Statue of Liberty and the Bill of Rights.

That group, Tri-State Freethinkers, put up the display on the lawn near a Christian nativity scene that has been a tradition at the courthouse for decades.

Tri-State Freethinkers were able to put their display up after another group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, won a legal battle over their right for free expression. Jim Helton of Tri-State Freethinkers said they wanted to create a balance.

"That was the complaint all along," Helton said. "If you're going to offer one viewpoint, you have to offer all. And they were only allowing one Christian viewpoint."

Helton said he was happy with the decision to allow no displays.

"If you want to put up lights, trees, Santa Claus that are inclusive to everyone, we have no problem with that," Helton said.

Some Franklin County residents thought otherwise.

"I think it's definitely something we need to continue," Brookville resident Justin Moore said. "It says 'In God We Trust' on our money. What is a nativity? It's Jesus."

Brookville resident Joe Jester said he expects the displays will still go up on private property.

The traditional nativity at the courthouse is owned by the Brookville Town Council. They said they have plans to display the nativity on a private lot across the street from the courthouse.

2016-29 Policies & Procedures Ct House Lawn 10-3-16 by James on Scribd