Indiana Town Cowers from Bullying ACLU

Indiana Town Cowers from Bullying ACLU

It is a familiar Christmas story in America: a community adopts a symbol of the season — a Nativity, a tree or something similar — then the city gets threatened. Fearing a costly public battle city officials quickly give in. This time it is Knightstown, Indiana and the symbol is a cross atop a city Christmas tree. The ALCU calls that “establishment of a state religion”.

According to several media reports Knightstown resident Joseph Tompkins argues that the Christian symbol on display in the Knightstown town square violates the First Amendment. The lawsuit is seeking for removal of the cross, monetary damages and declaration that the cross display violates the First Amendment.

Tompkins, and the ACLU, agree that the cross is offensive and “forcing” religion on those who don’t want it. What they want is money and to force EVERYONE in Knightstown to believe as Tompkins believes. In essence, if this case is won by the ACLU Knighstown will be forced to be atheist.

Nobody will see it that way, of course.

The community has responded as you would expect. Crosses are suddenly everywhere.

But this will end as it always ends. The cross comes down. There will be no court case. And yet another sad chapter in misreading the Constitution will be written.

The suit says Tompkins “is forced to come into direct and unwelcome contact” with the cross on top of the tree as he drives through town. This, the suit says, has caused him “irreparable harm,” which can only be remedied by taking the cross down and paying Tompkins monetary damages.

The only “irreparable harm” comes from an elected City council that won’t stand up for itself and for the people it represents. They should counter sue for damages caused by all the publicity and take it to the ACLU. Hit them where they live — in the pocketbook.

It’s the American way.

Florida City Takes Light Enthusiasts to Court

Florida City Takes Light Enthusiasts to Court

In the most famous Christmas light fight in America things are about to get really ugly — if they weren’t ugly enough already. The City of Plantation, Florida has imposed every warning, fine and ordinance it can but the Hyatt Extreme Christmas display has not only endured it has grown larger. So the city is going to court to prove its case. According to local media a judge will hold a hearing on the matter June 4th.

Other Christmas light enthusiasts from around the country are watching and starting to sound off. Lon Wilkins, from Henderson, Nevada, operates a popular local display in his own neighborhood. “I was supportive of the Hyatts at first because they seem like nice people just trying to celebrate Christmas,” Wilkins said. “But as we have watched this unfold it is clear they have been more about getting bigger and gaining more attention. They seem to have forgotten that the central message of Christmas is peace. If they cannot make peace with their own neighbors what are they all about anyway? I think it is all very sad.”

The case is important because Christmas lights on a much smaller scale have become an issue in many communities and home owner associations across the country. During 2014 we documented several instances where even simple displays of Christmas were disputed by local ordinance. If the City of Plantation case against Hyatt Extreme Christmas is successful it may fuel further lawsuits against Christmas light lovers.

Plantation Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic, who celebrates Christmas, said she is concerned for the neighbors who she said are forced to flee their homes during the holiday season.

“Who is dealing with all the madness again? Us,” said neighbor Dolly Imbert. “We have to go in and out of our houses. Where are my rights? It’s not a normal situation. This is insane. It should not be happening, period.”

The Hyatts were featured in 2013 on “The Great Christmas Light Fight” for their display that features moving characters, a movie screen showing a loop of films, a snow-blowing machine, flashing lights, and an occasional live Santa and “reindeer.” Judges praised the “amusement-park” quality of their presentation, but the Hyatts lost the $50,000 competition to a family from Decatur, Ga.

The city filed a lawsuit in Broward Circuit Court in February 2014 to get the display halted. That case was halted due to an injunction filed by the Hyatts last November. That case gets its day in court now and observers predict the Hyatts are going to lose.

Bendekovic said she wanted the legal action to continue.

“What happens if the settlement falls through?” she said. “We’re here to get the holiday display to [one compatible with] a residential one.”

The Hyatts don’t speak to the media unless it is to promote their display. They continue to make pleas and accusations on their website and Facebook pages. Some speculate that any lawsuit will be challenged in court and that the display will return this Christmas and for seasons to come as the battle takes place in the courts.

Local support for Hyatt Extreme Christmas is difficult to peg. While the display is no doubt wildly popular and draws huge crowds some think most of the monetary and vocal support for the Hyatts come from those who do not live in Plantation and who do not actually have to contend with the issue in their daily lives.

For the Hyatts the argument lies simply with their right to do what they want on their own property — an old argument without much teeth in countless cases with municipalities with zoning laws. The first amendment arguments actually make more sense — or would, if the city were demanding that no display be allowed at all. But that clearly is not the case as Plantation has said all along it just wants a Christmas light display that is on the level with other residences in the area.

Despite the debate the real costs are running up on all sides. Plantation claims it has spent thousands of dollars for police overtime and traffic control while the Hyatts are working under the burden of imposed daily fines of $250 and other fees in excess of $7000. Now attorney fees for both sides are added to the equation.

For the average home Christmas light enthusiast the case is being watched warily.

“We’re concerned about this case,” said Wilkins, who participates actively online with other Christmas light enthusiasts at PlanetChristmas.com, “Neighbor relations are an important part of what we do every year. There are ways to deal with this and some become so big or so popular that they have to get moved for the enjoyment of more people ultimately. Cities and residents can work together. But it appears all or nothing in the case of Plantation and the Hyatt display. It gives all of us a bit of a black eye because it makes all Christmas light enthusiasts look a little nutty and extreme. Most of us are not.”

Texas Courthouse Nativity Battle Explodes

Texas Courthouse Nativity Battle Explodes

A snide blog post at HoustonPress.com tells the story of Cherokee County in Texas where a Nativity scene — we assume this is a a traditional display there — has come under fire from a local resident who calls the display “unwelcoming toward non-Christians and individuals with no religion”.

Daniel Ross, in protesting the display, asked to be able to erect a “Human Lights” display next to the Nativity.

“To help solve this, I would like to get a sign to be placed on the court house to represent HumanLight for Secular Humanists, Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, and the rest of the secular community. HumanLight is a secular holiday on December 23rd. It’s designed to celebrate and express the positive, secular, human values of reason, compassion, humanity and hope. HumanLight illuminates a positive, secular vision of a happy, just and peaceful future for our world, a future which people can build by working together, drawing on the best of our human capacities. Thank you for taking your time to read this and let me know what time frame would be best to have a sign up next to the manger.”

Commissioner Katharine Pinotti of Precinct 3 sent a private response that, of course, made its way to Houston Press.com:

Mr. Ross,
Please know that I am replying to you ONLY as a resident and NOT as a
representative of Cherokee County as I cannot speak for the court unilaterally. However, I did receive your email requesting to have a “Humanlights” sign erected next to our courthouse decorations and wanted to respond to you from a purely personal point of view.

December 23rd is merely a date selected by your organization to make a political statement of your choice not to celebrate traditional Christian beliefs. Perhaps you should consider choosing another time of the year to demonstrate your secular support instead of attempting to infiltrate the Christmas holiday with a singular purpose to destroy and denigrate the beliefs of others. Try to live and let live.

Katherine Pinotti

Well, you know well where this is headed. Sure enough, American Humanist Association is now crowding in on the act, throwing the weight and the money of a national organization into the fight and sent a letter to Cherokee County asking the whole thing be removed on the age-old flawed argument that nativities somehow violate the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.

You know where this is headed.

We just hope they get this resolved before Festivus.

FFRF Goes After Snow Plows in Sioux Falls

FFRF Goes After Snow Plows in Sioux Falls

Two snow plows painted by a local school as part of the Sioux Falls annual ‘Paint the Plow’ event might not make it out on the street this winter.

One group is challenging the city.

City Hall soon will be decorated for the holidays but one group is attempting to fight city hall on just how much government can get into the Christmas spirit.

The group Freedom From Religion Foundation or FFRF recognizes several state and local government buildings are decked out for the holidays.

Freedom From Religion Foundation staff attorney Patrick Elliott said “the courts have looked at displays and have said a Christmas Tree is something that is permissible, proclaiming the birth of Jesus is something that is impermissible for the government to do.”

It”s why the group has an issue with these city snow plows decorated by a local school.

“They’re basically a roving billboard. I think citizens in the community would perceive a problem with it if a plow said ‘praise Allah, or there are no gods.’ That’s city equipment. It’s moving around the city basically all winter,” Elliott said.

Now those plow will come with a disclaimer.

Mayor Mike Huether said “we prefer utilizing compromise and common ground and common sense vs. the court system to resolve issues we have.”

Even after the Christmas season is over, some may argue religious symbols are part of our daily life, whether it’s on our money or in our Pledge of Allegiance.

“We think those things are problematic as well. The courts obviously haven’t agreed on a number of those things and when they’ve addressed those, they’ve more so been allowed because of their history,” Elliott said.

The group Freedom From Religion Foundation says it has about 10 other cases it’s working on challenging the separation between church and state as a violation of the Constitution.

Nativity Thieves Punished in Virginia

Nativity Thieves Punished in Virginia

Every Christmas season we receive dozens of reports of stolen or vandalized public nativity scenes from across America. Rarely is any ever caught or punished for the crimes. News out of Virginia bucks that trend when a man from the town of Forest, Virginia was tried and convicted for stealing and then destroying a nativity scene.

While he won’t have felony convictions on his record, Scott Cooley must spend a year in jail for stealing – and subsequently destroying – the Nativity scene at Shiloh United Methodist Church in Forest, a judge ruled.

Cooley pleaded guilty Tuesday to one misdemeanor count each of petty larceny and destruction of property.

He, along with two other men, initially faced a felony count each of grand larceny and destruction of property worth over $1,000.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Ayers asked Circuit Court Judge James Updike to amend the felony counts to misdemeanors at the request of church officials.

The church, while wanting to hold Cooley and his cohorts accountable, did not want to push for felony convictions, Ayers said.

She characterized Cooley as the ringleader of a group that took the nativity scene, valued at over $2,000, on Dec. 9.

They subsequently posted a picture of themselves on Facebook with the set, and later destroyed the figures, which included a baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and three wise men.

Ayers said after reports of the theft surfaced, the group cut the figures into pieces and took them to the Bedford County landfill.

Merry Christmas Bill Goes to Texas Governor

Merry Christmas Bill Goes to Texas Governor

The Texas state senate passed the Merry Christmas Bill and it has now been sent to Governor Rick Perry for his signature.

The bill would clarify that schools may have Christmas trees, nativity scenes and other displays as long as any display includes a scene or symbol of more than one religion.

“This will provide students, parents, teachers and administrators a safe harbor for openly celebrating a federal holiday without fear of litigation or retribution,” said Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville. “Our school officials and teachers have enough on their plates without having to worry about frivolous lawsuits and retribution for recognizing Christmas or Hanukkah.” Nichols said the guidelines for exchange of greetings such as “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah,” as well as the display of symbols marking those holidays, are consistent with rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The legislation does prohibit a display relating to a traditional winter celebration from including a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief. After approval of the legislation, Nichols told other senators, “Thank you members and Merry Christmas to you all.”

Middle Finger Christmas Lights Win Court Case

Middle Finger Christmas Lights Win Court Case

Sarah Childs had a beef with her neighbor and wanted the whole world to know about it. So on her property in Denham Springs, Louisiana she put up a Christmas lights display that was sure to get everyone’s attention: her lights prominently showcased the image of a human hand with the middle finger extended. When the local police department threatened her the whole thing ended up in court. That case was settled with the ACLU winning $15,000 for attorney’s fees and an agreement that Childs can continue to “flip the bird” at her neighbors.

The display got plenty of attention when it first went up in November 2012. Neighbors called police to complain and Denham Springs Police Corporal Shawn Perkins paid her a visit.

Corporal Perkins told WWL Radio the homeowner told him she put the display as a direct message to her neighbors.

“It was a message to an ongoing dispute she was having with other homeowners on that same street,” Perkins said. Perkins says he informed Henderson that the display was in violation of obscenity laws and that it must come down, or else. She agreed that it wasn’t worth the possible hassle of fines and legal action,” Perkins said.

However, the ACLU of Louisiana soon waded into the fray after the story was broadcast in local and national media. The ACLU sent an open letter to the Denham Springs Police Department “to ensure that no such fines are levied or other penalties imposed if Childs chooses to reinstall her controversial holiday display.”

In that letter, the ACLU wrote: “The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal, which presides over Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, has specifically commented on the protected expressive nature of a middle finger extended in defiance or protest: “The thumbed nose, the projected middle finger, the Bronx cheer, the grimace and the smile are all conduct intended to convey a message that is sometimes made even more expressive by its bold freedom from a garb of words.” Davis v. Williams.”

With victory at hand Childs has given no indication of whether or not she will repeat the display.

Warren, Michigan Wins Suit Against FFRF

Warren, Michigan Wins Suit Against FFRF

Mayor Jim Fouts and the City of Warren, Michigan won a battle in the U.S. Sixth District Court in a fight against the Freedom from Religion Foundation which insisted that the city’s failure to allow an anti-Christian sign in the city’s Christmas display constituted discrimination and was a violation of their free speech rights.

As reported by Defend Christmas back in 2011 the FFRF wanted to post a sign that read “At this season of the Winter Solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”, similar to other signs the FFRF has posted in communities all across America. Mayor Fouts refused their request and the FFRF sued in court claiming discrimination and censorship.

The court agree with Fouts and the City of Warren concluding the U.S. Constitution “does not convert these displays into a seasonal public forum, requiring governments to add all comers to the mix and creating a poison pill for even the most secular displays in the process.” The court also upheld the constitutionality of Warren’s annual Christmas display, noting it features both secular and religious symbols alike.

“Such holiday displays are quintessentially government speech,” the panel wrote in a 3-0 vote, also stressing that it’s not illegal if an opposing view is kept out of a holiday display.

“If strict neutrality were the order of the day … the United States Postal Service would need to add all kinds of stamps, religious and nonreligious alike, to its December collection. Veterans’ Day would lead to pacifism Day, the Fourth of July to Non-patriots Day, and so on.”

The court case against the FFRF is an important victory for municipalities threatened by lawsuits by the FFRF. Often, intimidated by the expense and threat of lawsuits, cities cave to the requests of the FFRF and the resulting publicity each holiday season embarrasses cities as they inevitably become the focus of national media attention, potentially affecting tourism, commerce and public relations efforts. Most localities just want to honor time-tested traditions without the fuss of court fights.

For Mayor Fouts, the issue goes way beyond Christmas saying the decision is a “victory for freedom of religion.” Fouts was plain spoken when the city received the letter of threats from the FFRF, calling their sign “highly offense” and “mean spirited”. He told the group in a letter, disclosed in court documents, that he wouldn’t allow any displays to disparage any religion, “so I will not allow anyone or any organization to attack religion in general.”

Christmas Lights Head to Court in 2013

Christmas Lights Head to Court in 2013

The issue of Christmas lights is not a new one to us. From cities who have to abandon public displays of lights because of budget concerns to neighbors complaining about over-the-top displays the issue is not a new one. But as technology advances you have to question when it all becomes a little too much.

Out in the ritzy suburbs of Orange County a Fountain Valley woman made headlines for her display of Christmas lights honoring her husband, who passed away from cancer. 2012 was the second year of her display and this year it was bigger than before — more than 65,000 LED lights synchronized to loud music that blew away the neighbors and drew large festive crowds to the neighborhood. Here is one local news report:

For some, the light display can make an impact in other ways. A Louisiana woman used Christmas lights to craft an image of an extended middle finger pointed to her neighbor, who she accuses of stealing her dog. The local police ticketed the woman and forced her to take down the lights. She took it to court, backed by the ACLU, claiming First Amendment rights to justify the display. Here is another local news report (with the offending Christmas lights blurred out, ironically):

Christmas lights are STILL in the news even though Christmas has past. The first of media reports of people keeping their Christmas lights up too long has already been posted online where discussions of the difference between a “law” and an “ordinance” seems to subdue the fact that Christmas lights to some belong up and on only in December. This report comes from Maine.

Texas Atheist Sends a Star — and a Threat

Henderson County Texas was one of the hotspots in the War on Christmas last year and it appears to be looking to make headlines again. Last year an out-of-state group filed a protest with the county over a nativity scene on public grounds. The group was given a Texas-style welcome for their interference in what most consider a local matter that just happened to get national media coverage. But as Thanksgiving gives way to Christmas later this week all the same parties are back on the same page and Henderson County Texas is about to make news again.

Local atheist-turned-Christian-turned-atheist-again activist Patrick Greene is taking a different approach to the situation this year. Last year, when local Christian groups heard of a family health issue for the Greenes they collected money to help. The gesture so touched Greene that he briefly converted to Christianity before returning to his atheist beliefs. Greene was gracious in receiving the gift. But his feelings about the public Christmas displays in Athens, Texas require him to take a stand and he is trying to do so without the heavy handed tactics employed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation last year.

“I went to Walmart, bought a cardboard box, got some gift wrapping material and made up a sign that said, ‘This star is a gift from two Texas atheists, Merry Christmas,'” he said.

Greene is an atheist from San Antonio. He threatened to sue Henderson County last winter over the nativity scene on its courthouse lawn, which has been displayed each Christmas for more than a decade. But Greene backed off the suit when his health began to fail.

As a sign of Christian goodwill, a church in Athens raised money, and sent Greene hundreds of dollars to help him and his wife through the health scare. Greene said they were genuinely touched by the people’s “generosity and kindness,” so they bought a star for the county’s nativity scene. He sent the star in March.

“We were very appreciative,” he said.

Greene said his sign, which arrived at the office of the Keep Athens Beautiful president on Nov. 20, is meant to undo damage done by other atheists.

Last year, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation also threatened to sue if Henderson County did not remove the nativity display from county property. They also requested what’s called an “equal time” display. Their display would have included a banner with a message reading, “At this Season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

Henderson County refused both requests.

Greene called the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s sign insulting.

“You don’t just push yourself into some place and insult people while you’re doing it,” he said. “We thought it was arrogant for Freedom From Religion Foundation to insult people, just to make a point.”

He said when he heard the county denied the foundation’s requests, “I told my wife that because of the animosity that grew toward atheists in general, that we should tell people – and make it a point – that atheists are the ones that gave them that star.”

So that’s when he went to Walmart, made his sign, and sent it, with his demand the sign be presented next to the star.

“We can’t risk any more animosity toward atheists by letting people think Christians are the ones that put the nativity scene there, and that Christians were the ones that put the star there,” he said.

Henderson County Attorney Clint Davis said once the county officially reviews Greene’s request, the county judge will have the final say on what to do with the sign.

“Typically, as we just did with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, we have not allowed banners or signs of any kind,” he said. “The decorations we have to not have wordings, and they are simply decorations.”

If the sign and star are not displayed, Greene said he is drawing up a lawsuit that he will likely file against Henderson County this week or next week, claiming the entire Christmas display violates Texas Constitution because it infers the county is endorsing a religion.

“If people are insulted by my sign that said ‘atheist,’ then they have no intention of fostering the Christmas message, because goodwill toward men goes both ways,” Greene said.

Davis disputes Greene’s claims that the nativity scene violates Texas constitution.

“The county’s viewpoint is that we are in complete compliance with all the laws and all the regulations,” he said. “After a year-and-a-half into this, I’ve yet to have anybody from Henderson County that’s contacted me that said, ‘I’ve been personally offended by any display on county property.’ It’s all been from people from the outside. And that’s the frustrating thing when you think you’re doing everything right – everything you’re supposed to do – and you’re still subject to these attacks.”

Keep Athens Beautiful Executive Director Carol Morton said despite the distractions, the nativity scene will begin to be installed next week and the Light Up Athens Committee of Keep Athens Beautiful officially kicks off the Christmas season December 1.

“We’re here to make a beautiful display on the square for all the wonderful people in Henderson County and the city of Athens, so just come and have fun with us,” Morton said.

Judge Sides with Atheists, Santa Monica Christmas Will be Christian-Free

The atheist movement has won in Santa Monica, California — offsetting a recent defeat suffered in Texas. As we have covered here over the past two years about the Christmas controversies in Santa Monica the fight there came as a result of a beleaguered City Council who just could not make anyone happy. When atheists sued to be part of the 60-year traditional Christmas display that included nativities, Santas, reindeer, and candy canes the City Council opted to initiate a lottery system to dole out display space. When atheists won 18 of 21 spots, Christian display advocates took the matter to court to dispute the process.

Today the judge decided against the pro-Christian group, effectively ending the fight and taking Christmas down forever in Santa Monica (except on private property).

“The atheists won,” said William Becker, attorney for the Nativity group. He then went on to compare the city to Pontius Pilate, the judge at Jesus’ trial, saying: “It’s a shame about Christmas. Pontius Pilate was exactly the same kind of administrator.”

Leesburg, Virginia Tries to Get a Grip on Holiday Displays

Leesburg, Virginia was in the news a lot last Christmas because they just couldn’t control how people would decorate for Christmas in the town’s public places. They do not want a repeat of last year’s media fiasco and community uproar.

The Loudon County Council is proposing this year to take matters into their own hands. Instead of allowing the public to put up their own decoration on the court house lawn, local media reports say the county is now considering putting up a Christmas tree, Nativity scene, Santa, and a Menorah on the lawn.

You can see already where this is headed.

That courthouse lawn will not be the only place where folks will be talking this Christmas. The mere mention of a Nativity scene will set out-of-state groups such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation on their heels and will bring out the lawyers. Stay tuned, Leesburg will likely stay in the Christmas headlines.

Pennsylvania County Taking No Chances with Christmas Display

Luzerne County commissioners don’t want another holiday season controversy over the Nativity scene and menorah on the courthouse lawn, so they plan to pass a resolution making it clear that they plan to set up a “seasonal holiday display” this year.

Commissioners had removed the Nativity and menorah from the lawn last December after a litigation threat from the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The organizations argued the display violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

After public uproar, including protesters carrying nativity statues at the site where the display was removed, county officials came up with a more diverse seasonal display.

The revamped version included Santa and Mrs. Claus, two reindeer, some candy canes, a little elf handling mail for Santa, a Christmas tree and signs that say “Happy Holidays” and “Happy Kwanzaa.”

Virginia County Rules Christmas Displays Can Stay

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to uphold a policy that allows unattended displays, including religious ones, to be placed on the public grounds of the county courthouse in downtown Leesburg — effectively ending the first battle in the War on Christmas 2010. In an 8 to 1 vote the board put an end to a heated debate that began in November 2009, when a resident-led commission decided that the county should ban unattended displays outside the courthouse. That decision, prompted by a rising number of requests to use the space, drew the ire of residents when the commission denied a rotary group’s application to place a Christmas tree on court grounds.

Residents speaking in favor of allowing religious displays on the grounds have dominated previous public hearings. They did so again at a public input session Tuesday at which the board was urged to maintain the current policy by Leesburg Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd, Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), local clergy members and scores of residents wearing blue pins that read “Merry Christmas — God with us.”

The appeals of those who addressed the board ranged from impassioned pleas to respect the Constitution to angry claims of religious persecution.

“Christianity is under attack,” Leesburg resident Barbara Bayles-Roberts said. As for those who don’t believe in God, she added, “there is a holiday for them, and it’s called April Fools’ Day.”

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) also weighed in on the matter in an opinion dated Aug. 20, saying that local governments should not be compelled to ban holiday displays that include religious symbols. The opinion was a response to a request from Marshall, who asked whether Loudoun is required to prohibit holiday displays on public property.

Miller, who cast the lone opposing vote, expressed concern that the right to due process was being overshadowed by the right to religious freedom, adding that jurors or defendants might be intimidated by displays outside the building. People do not come to the courthouse to see religious displays, Miller said: “They come to the courthouse to see justice done.”

But the remaining supervisors were ultimately united in their desire to maintain the current policy in the hope that the use of the property will reflect a spirit of inclusion and tolerance.

“People who preach the First Amendment need to abide by the First Amendment,” said Supervisor James Burton (I-Blue Ridge), who added that he would be willing to revisit the matter next year if an incident such as the one that occurred last year — when an unpopular display was stolen — is repeated this holiday season.

Supervisor Andrea McGimsey (D-Potomac) said she thinks the courthouse grounds should be “a vibrant place” where the community can express itself.

“I hope we can put this issue to rest, finally,” she said.

Don’t hold your breath.

Feds Refuse to Let Principals Off the Hook in Candy Cane Case

A federal appeals court has ruled that two Plano elementary school principals can be held personally liable in a lawsuit over a student’s distribution of religious Christmas candy canes.

Principals Lynn Swanson and Jackie Bomchill wanted to be dismissed from the suit, claiming qualified immunity, but a lower court denied their request. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans affirmed that ruling on Thursday.

The principal’s attorney, Tom Brandt, says his clients will appeal. He says the principals didn’t practice religious-viewpoint discrimination against any students as is alleged.

Four families with students in Plano schools sued, alleging their children had been banned from handing out pencils saying “Jesus is the reason for the season,” candy canes with cards describing their Christian origin, and other religious materials.