ACLU v. Schundler: Certain Holiday Displays Ruled Unconstitutional

ACLU v. Schundler: Certain Holiday Displays Ruled Unconstitutional

Judge Timothy K. Lewis

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Argued: ACLU v. Schundler — The Third Circuit Court will rule that a holiday display with a menorah, a creche, and a holiday tree is unconstitutional. However, the addition of a sign indicating a secular purpose to the display makes it constitutional.

The Court will rely heavily on the earlier Supreme Court ruling in County of Allegheny v. ACLU, arguing that the Jersey City display and the Allegheny County display are similar enough that they should be treated alike.

Judge Timothy K. Lewis writes in the majority opinion:

"A crèche represents the Christian belief that Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary to lead humankind on a path toward salvation and redemption. Yet Jersey City would have us believe that the symbol of the crèche has achieved such a level of secular status that it is religiously benign. We are not so persuaded.

The mere fact that a religious symbol is pervasively displayed during the holiday season does not diminish its religious significance. A crèche unambiguously represents a belief that is not universally shared by the citizens of this country.

In fact, many citizens believe that Jesus may only be understood as a Hebrew prophet. For some devout observers of their respective faiths, it is heresy to ascribe a divine character or purpose to Jesus' life or death. ...

Jersey City's use of public funds to erect and maintain its display increased the risk of making religion relevant ... to status in [Jersey City's] political community. ...

It remains clear that government celebration of one particular religion, or even more than one religion, can constitute government endorsement of religion that violates the Establishment Clause. ...

[G]overnment celebration of more than one religion cannot magically transform a government endorsement of religion into a secular "celebration of diversity and pluralism."

Read More: ACLU v. Schundler

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