A nativity display at an Indiana county courthouse has survived a second lawsuit brought against it by secularist groups after a settlement was reached.
Lawyers representing Franklin County settled earlier this month with the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union regarding a nativity display at the Brookville courthouse.
The ACLU had filed the suit on behalf of the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation and The Satanic Temple.
According to the settlement, both parties agree to the original rules regarding applying for courthouse displays, which included the need to have a local resident to put up the display.
"Plaintiffs agree that the amended ordinance's provisions regarding a local contact who works or resides in Franklin County, or any adjacent Indiana county, for all unattended displays is reasonable and agree not to challenge such provision in the future," read the settlement. "Plaintiffs agree not to bring any further suits, for damages or any other claims, related to the initial denial and original ordinance which forms the basis for the civil action."
For about a half century, residents of Franklin County have erected a nativity scene at the county courthouse in downtown Brookville.
In December of 2014, the state chapter of the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of FFRF against Franklin County over the nativity scene displayed at the courthouse property.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the suit argued that the nativity scene was unconstitutional as there were no other displays to counter its influence.
"The display, owned by the Town of Brookville, consists of several life-size figures surrounding the baby Jesus Christ, and no other displays on the lawn diminish the religious impact of the nativity scene," read the lawsuit. "The display represents an endorsement of religion and has the principal effect of advancing religion, and it therefore runs afoul of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution."
Exclusive Op-eds from the Presidential Campaigns
Legally represented by the Thomas More Society, Franklin County countered that the nativity scene was in a public space that anyone could apply to erect a display.
In March, FFRF and a group called The Satanic Temple filed a complaint accusing the county of discrimination when their displays were rejected.
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement released in April that the public forum rule "apparently doesn't apply to atheists."
"FFRF applied to place a charming display celebrating the Dec. 15 'nativity' of the Bill of Rights, we were rejected. The county cannot create a public forum only for Christianity or majority views," stated Gaylor.
Regarding the settlement result, Thomas More Society Associate Counsel Jocelyn Floyd said in a statement last week: "Religious speech is no less valuable and protected than non-religious speech under the First Amendment. The Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuits against Franklin County and the Nativity scene were in retaliation against private citizens' religious speech in a public forum, and we are proud to have resolved these legal cases without cost to the people of Franklin County."