A longstanding, local tradition returns to Warren, Michigan for the 2012 Christmas season as John Satawa is scheduled to reinstall his family’s nativity scene on the public median between Mound and Chicago Roads on Saturday, December 15. The return of the nativity scene comes as the result of a successful legal challenge advanced by Robert Muise, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), which represented Mr. Satawa.
After nearly three years of litigation, this past August the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of Mr. Satawa, confirming that his private religious speech is fully protected under the First Amendment and holding that by denying his permit request to display his nativity scene, the County Road Commission violated his right to freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment and deprived him of the equal protection of the law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Muise, who successfully argued the case before the Sixth Circuit on behalf of Mr. Satawa, commented, “This is not only a victory for Mr. Satawa and his family, but a tremendous victory for the free speech rights of Christians all across our great Nation. While the war on Christmas rages on, we can count this one as a victory for the good guys. Above all, however, I am extremely pleased that Mr. Satawa and his family can resume their cherished holiday tradition, which is a treasure for the entire community.”
For over 60 years, Mr. Satawa and his family had displayed a nativity scene during the Christmas season, and there had never been a single complaint about the display until December 2008, when the County Road Commission received a written complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, an atheist activist organization that travels around the country challenging public religious displays. The Road Commission acquiesced to the complaint, prompting the filing of this federal lawsuit.