63 Year Traditional Nativity Displayer Sues to Continue Display

A Michigan man who says his family has erected a nativity scene in the Mound Road median in Warren, Michigan since about 1945 has filed a federal lawsuit against the Macomb County Road Commission for denying him permission to do so this year.

John Satawa of Warren alleges the commission has violated his constitutional rights. His lawsuit is backed by the Thomas More Law Center, an Ann Arbor-based law firm that promotes Christian heritage and values.

County Highway Engineer Robert Hoepfner said in a March 9 letter to Satawa’s attorney that the road commission denied permission for Satawa to place the nativity scene in the Mound Road median south of Chicago Road in Warren because the scene “clearly displays a religious message.”

To allow the scene on the public median would violate a clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits government from taking a position on religious issues, Hoepfner said in the letter.

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the law center, said in a news release today that “the systematic exclusion of Christmas symbols during the holiday season is itself inconsistent with the Constitution.

“Every Christmas holiday, militant atheists, acting like the Taliban, use the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ — nowhere found in our Constitution — as a means of intimidating municipalities and schools into removing expressions celebrating Christmas, a national holiday,” Thompson said.

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