Saturday, December 7, 2013

Lynch v. Donnelly case brief

Lynch v. Donnelly case brief summary
465 U.S. 668 (1984)

Respondents, city residents, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and ACLU members, brought an action challenging petitioner city's inclusion of a creche in its annual holiday display. The Court granted certiorari to review the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which affirmed the district court's ruling that the creche violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The city's display comprised many of the figures and decorations traditionally associated with Christmas, including, among other things, a Santa Claus house, reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh, candy-striped poles, a Christmas tree, carolers, and the creche at issue. The ACLU and others argued that the city had endorsed and promulgated religious beliefs. The city was permanently enjoined from including the creche in the display.

  • The Court reversed the judgment. In so doing, the Court held that: 
  • (1) whatever benefit there was to one faith or religion or to all religions, it was indirect, remote, and incidental; 
  • (2) the display of the creche was no more an advancement or endorsement of religion than the congressional and executive recognition of the origins of Christmas itself as "Christ's Mass," or the exhibition of literally hundreds of religious paintings in governmentally supported museums; and, 
  • (3) the city had a secular purpose (the celebration of Christmas) for including the creche. 
  • The Court concluded that the city had not impermissibly advanced religion, and including the creche had not created excessive entanglement between religion and government.

The permanent injunction against displaying the creche was reversed.

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