As it educates and litigates on behalf of slighted Christmas celebrants, the Liberty Counsel says that its campaign for religious freedom is bearing fruit.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, various people have put to use the services of the Florida-based legal group, which has secured the free help of nearly 750 lawyers as part of its Friend or Foe of Christmas campaign.
Since it began in early November, the group says it has now handled scores of cases, with many already resolved.
While the war on Christmas continues, the Christmas Grinches have been running for their lives. Retailers and government officials are learning that Christmas is here to stay, said Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty counsel in a released statement.
The offer of free legal aid has been taken up in a variety of cases. From parties, to greetings, to private displays on public property, and decorations, Christmas-related legal matters have been resolved or are still pending. Hundreds of lawyers are ready to work without charge for the season.
In one recent suit, a pair of Florida cities wanted to keep away a nativity scene in a public park even though a Christmas tree and a large Menorah had already been allowed.
Ken Koenig, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, near Jacksonville had requested from two neighboring cities sharing the same public park that he be allowed to display his private 40-inch tall nativity scene. However Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach, denied the request, stating that while the two allowed symbols were secular, the nativity scene was considered religious and could not be displayed.
Liberty Counsel took up the case, filing a First Amendment lawsuit on Dec. 6, which it called a classic viewpoint-based discrimination matter. Two days later the cities reversed their positions.
In another case, a door decorating contest sponsored by a high school in Washington D.C had stated in a bulletin that no religious Christmas themes were allowed. Only non-religious winter scenes were permitted, with the schools principal emphasizing that decorations that broke with the acceptable theme would be disqualified.
In protest, students belonging to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Everest Senior High School gathered over 200 petitions opposing the rule. On behalf of the students, Liberty Counsel issued a demand letter to the Everest School District superintendent, stating that the discriminatory policy would be met with a lawsuit. A day later, after consulting with its attorneys, the school district said its policy was not in compliance with existing laws.
For these students, the Christmas Grinch is gone, commented Staver. They can now decorate their doors with the joy of Christmas. Private religious speech that occurs on public property is fully protected by the First Amendment. Christmas cannot be treated like contraband.
In another case again involving a government entity this time in New York City a legal memo posted on the Liberty Counsels website was enough to aid employees of the Environmental Protection Agency to reclaim some Christmas spirit.
The agency had allowed Hanukkah banners and had previously allowed the celebration of Diwali, an Indian holiday. However the agency did not allow for Christmas banners, red and green decorations, and even took down a holiday tree, according to Liberty Counsel.
After the Liberty Counsel memo was circulated among the employees, 115 of them signed petitions demanding that the agency change its policies. It did and also apologized to them.