Christmas In July: City Wins Again, ACLU Loses Again

Federal appeals court fully rejects ACLU lawsuit against holiday displays on Cranston, R.I., City Hall lawn
Thursday, July 07, 2005


BOSTON-A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled unanimously Wednesday that a woman represented by the ACLU who sued the City of Cranston, R.I., after being offended by Christmas displays at City Hall had no standing to bring her claim.

"This is the court’s message:  you can’t sue just because you’re an offended observer," said ADF Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull.  "The appeals court today rejected what has been a longstanding ACLU tactic-filing lawsuits simply for the reason that somebody claims to be offended.  The Christmas displays in Cranston were perfectly constitutional, just as the district court ruled."

On Nov. 15 of last year, a federal district court ruled that the City of Cranston’s practice of allowing private holiday displays, including religious displays, on the front lawn of City Hall does not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

The district court did grant an injunction against the city on other grounds at that time, but the appeals court today threw out the injunction saying that the client represented by the ACLU had no standing to sue.

In Wednesday’s opinion, the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals wrote, "The Constitution requires that litigants have a personal stake in a case before they may sue in a federal court., and this plaintiff has not provided facts sufficient to show that she possesses such a stake."  The full text of the opinion can be read at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/OsediaczOpinion.pdf.

ADF-allied attorney Tom Marcelle, based in Albany, N.Y., represented the city in the case, Osediacz v. City of Cranston, which the ACLU originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.

U.S. District Court Judge William Smith wrote last year that nothing in the city’s public statements or in its implementation of the policy for its Christmas displays "reveals or even remotely supports an inference that a religious purpose was behind the creation of the limited public forum," as the ACLU’s lawsuit alleged.

ADF is America’s largest legal alliance defending religious liberty through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.

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