Michigan Court Battle, Vote Heating Up

Last winter, cowed by threats from the ACLU, the Berkley City Council in Michigan voted to remove a decades-old nativity display from city property. The council’s controversial action ignored the plea from many of this small town’s citizens to keep the display.

As a result, a grassroots effort “Berkley Citizens Vote YES to Christmas Holiday Display,” led by resident Georgia Halloran mounted a successful petition drive to overrule the City Council’s vote. Enough signatures were gathered to place a proposed Charter Amendment on the November 6, 2007 general election ballot.

A ‘yes’ vote on the ballot question will require the city to display a nativity scene from the Monday following Thanksgiving through January 6.

Halloran, as spokesperson for the group commented, “Christmas is a national holiday. And we’re not going to let ACLU threats dictate how we publicly celebrate it.”

The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, offered to represent the city without charge should it be sued by the ACLU, and provided legal assistance to Halloran’s group.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, commented: “Despite all of their public rationalizations of why the Nativity should be removed from city property, it is clear the city council acted out of fear of an ACLU lawsuit. The council made the wrong decision, and Berkley citizens are working within the political system to correct that wrong.”

The Charter Amendment requires that the Christmas holiday display comply with governing law and allows the display to be modeled after the display appearing in nearby Clawson, Michigan, a holiday display that includes a nativity scene and that was ruled constitutional by the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal court that governs Michigan.

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