Updated: Tuesday, 27 Apr 2010, 5:48 PM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 27 Apr 2010, 9:12 AM CDT
MADISON - The construction on the front lawn of the Manitowoc County Courthouse is expected to be tidied up in time, to once again, host a nativity scene as it has for more than 60 years. But this time, the display put on by the Manitowoc County Catholic Woman's Club, could have some company.
The Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) brought a lawsuit against the county, claiming that having just a Christian symbol was unconstitutional.
Federal judge William Griesbach ruled last week that the case had become "moot" after the county put an equal consideration permit on file, for any holiday or religious display.
However, Griesbach also pointed out the county may get more than it bargained for, citing Cranston, Rhode Island, which has a similar policy.
"It was treated to not only a large menorah accompanied by a sign conveying wishes for 'a Happy Chanukah' and a near-life-sized nativity scene, but also an inflatable seven-foot-tall Santa Claus; a huge holographic angel; a train of fifteen pink flamingos with Santa Claus hats; and a sign that read 'Happy Holidays from the Teamsters Union,'" wrote Griesbach.
"I think the people of Manitowoc County take pride in their downtown and their courthouse property pretty seriously," said Manitowoc County Executive, Bob Ziegelbauer. "I can't imagine anybody in our community would intentionally want to embarrass our community by their behavior."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation says getting the county to come up with a policy after decades, was a victory itself.
"We are going to test the policy and we encourage other people in the community to test it," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF Co-President.
Gaylor says the organization may also appeal the court's decision because of an insurance requirement by the county for the displays.
"Very few people, very few organizations can get the kind of insurance that is required by the county, and we put that in our response," she said.
"This exercise has encouraged us to add a bit more paperwork to that and we've do that," said Ziegelbauer. "The basic underlying policy continues to be appropriate and we feel comfortable defending it."
Ziegelbauer says there has not been any request for displays to this point, including the nativity.