Nativity set for return

Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Charlie Butts (

After a years-long legal battle, Warren, Michigan's nativity scene will return this month.

The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) represented John Satawa, who for more than 60 years has set up a nativity scene during the Christmas season on a public median.

Muise, Robert (AFLC) 2"In 2008, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, this atheist activist organization that goes around the country challenging public religious displays, sent a letter to the Road Commission demanding that they order Mr. Satawa to take down his display," recalls Robert Muise, chief counsel for the AFLC. "The Road Commission acquiesced, and we promptly filed a lawsuit."

It took three years for the case to wind its way through the federal court system.

"I argued this case before the U.S Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit this past spring, and then this past August, the Sixth Circuit ruled in our favor and held that the Road Commission, by denying Mr. Satawa a permit to display his nativity scene, violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech and then deprived him of the equal protection of the law under the 14th Amendment."

Satawa resubmitted his application and has received a permit to restore the display December 15.

Muise reflects on the fact that the nativity scene was a 60-year tradition without a single complaint before the atheist group's failed attempt to abolish it.

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