LYNCH v. DONNELLY, 465 U.S. 668 (1984)

(Gov't Sponsored Nativity Scenes)

 
The city of Pawtucket, R. I., annually erects a Christmas display in a park owned by a nonprofit organization and located in the heart of the city's shopping district. The display includes, in addition to such objects as a Santa Claus house, a Christmas tree, and a banner that reads "SEASONS GREETINGS," a creche or Nativity scene, which has been part of this annual display for 40 years or more. Respondents brought an action in Federal District Court, challenging the inclusion of the creche in the display on the ground that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court upheld the challenge and permanently enjoined the city from including the creche in the display. The Court of Appeals affirmed. US Supreme Court reverse the Court of Appeals decision, finding no infringement of the first amendment. The court stated, "The concept of a 'wall' of separation between church and state is a useful metaphor but is not an accurate description of the practical aspects of the relationship that in fact exists. The Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any." Justices Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun and Stevens dissented.
 

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