A city in Delaware is being taken to federal court by an organization whose efforts to display a nativity scene are being opposed.
"The city of Rehoboth Beach has prohibited our client, the Knights of Columbus, from displaying a creche or nativity scene in the downtown area on Christmas," explains attorney Roger Byron of First Liberty Institute – who adds that it's not the first time.
"It happened in 2018; it happened again in 2019," he continues. "And even after we sent a letter to the city explaining that a blanket prohibition on religious displays on public property is unlawful – that it violates both the First Amendment protections of speech and the free exercise of religion – the city refused to relent. [That] left the Knights of Columbus no choice but to enforce and protect its First Amendment constitutional rights in federal court."
Officials in Rehoboth Beach say it is city policy that no religious displays are allowed on city property. First Liberty argues that is discrimination.
"It is perfectly lawful to have a creche or nativity scene on public property, certainly at Christmastime," Byron continues. "Conversely, it is blatantly unlawful to ban religious displays from public property. That is unlawful discrimination and a clear violation of the First Amendment."
The city allows another local group to display an enormous Santa's House in the same area where the Knights would like to display their creche. Byron says the Knights are just asking for equal treatment.
"Just last year, First Liberty won a U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld a 40-foot Latin cross displayed on public property year-round," says the attorney. "If a 40-foot Latin cross on public property year-round is perfectly lawful, the Knights of Columbus and the people of Rehoboth Beach can have a crèche on city property at Christmastime."