Nativity Scene Restored after AFLC Victory (with VIDEO)
On Saturday, December 15, John Satawa reinstalled his family’s nativity display on the public median between Mound and Chicago Roads in Warren, Michigan. The return of the nativity display – a cherished tradition in the local community for over sixty years – came as the result of a successful legal challenge brought by Robert J. Muise, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC).
The Christmas tradition began on a cold winter day in 1945, when Mr. Satawa, then a young boy, helped his father install the nativity scene on the public median in Warren. The holiday tradition continued without a single complaint for sixty-three years. In December 2008, however, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist organization, made a formal complaint to the County Road Commission. The Road Commission acquiesced to the complaint, banning the nativity display. The Road Commission’s actions prompted Muise to file a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Satawa.
After nearly three years of litigation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in Mr. Satawa’s favor this past August, holding that the 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. As a result of this ruling, the nativity scene returned to its rightful position on December 15th.