Federal court exempts Nativity scenes from 'Lemon Test'

Monday, February 8, 2021
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

gavel with Bible and U.S. ConstitutionAnother attempt to squelch Christian expression in the public square has itself been squelched by a federal court.

"When the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled [last week] in favor of a Nativity scene displayed annually at the Jackson County, Indiana courthouse, it was the first time that a court ruled that the so-called 'Lemon Test' does not apply to these holiday symbols," says Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the law firm representing Jackson County in the case known as Woodring v. Jackson County, Indiana.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against Jackson County on behalf of Rebecca Woodring, saying she was "forced to come into direct and unwelcome contact with the display," which also included secular imagery often seen around Christmas.

Staver

"Applying a historical test, the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Nativity scene as part of the larger holiday display is constitutional," Staver explains. "Woodring cited to the Supreme Court's recent decision in Marsh v. Chambers (upholding legislative prayer using a historical test), Town of Greece v. Galloway (upholding prayer delivered before local governmental bodies), and American Legion v. American Humanist Association (upholding the Peace Cross in Maryland)."

Speaking of the cross case, the Seventh Circuit wrote: "Applying American Legion, we conclude that the County's Nativity scene is constitutional because it fits within a long national tradition of using the Nativity scene in broader holiday displays to celebrate the origins of Christmas – a public holiday."

According to Liberty Counsel, the "Lemon Test" comes from the 1971 case of Lemon v. Kurtzman, in which the Supreme Court ruled that a Rhode Island law providing government funding to non-secular schools was unconstitutional. Over time, says the legal group, this confusing and subjective test has caused conflicting opinions, and the outcomes "were often dependent on a judge's preference in counting how many angels could dance on the head of a pin."

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