The Pacific Justice Institute says the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which routinely threatens and then sues cities and towns that acknowledge the faith component of the Christmas holiday, has been beaten back – at least in one case.
It was in Gig Harbor, Washington, where city officials voted to restore a nativity scene display to a park after PJI provided legal guidance and support in response to threats from the FFRF.
The nativity had been part of the city’s traditional display in Skansie Brothers Park for years, the institute reported.
“It was provided by John Skansi and Councilman Jim Franich, who together headed the local ‘Sons of Thunder’ organization, and was placed alongside a Christmas tree and other secular symbols of the season,” the institute reported.
Then in November 2016 came the threat from the FFRF that it would sue the city for its “unconstitutional” display, putting a damper on the display plans. In 2017, again, the council voted against the nativity, even though some 1,150 people signed a petition to bring it back.
But this year, resistance to what the PJI called an “organization known for castigating people of faith and filing suits that are routinely thrown out of court, surged.
“At the request of Gig Harbor resident Elizabeth Kreiselmaier … who played a key role in organizing the community’s efforts to persuade the city to bring the nativity back, PJI’s new office in Seattle, Washington, sent a letter to the mayor of Gig Harbor that laid out the constitutional rights the city has to bring back the nativity display,” the institute reported.
“This letter, along with the community efforts led by Skansi and Kreiselmaier and the key internal efforts spearheaded by Councilman Franich, motivated the city council to stand up to the FFRF’s threats and reinstate their traditional Christmas display with the nativity scene just in time for the 2018 Tree Lighting Celebration.”
“The FFRF’s hostility toward religious displays on government property cannot go unchecked,” stated Jorge Ramos, the institute’s staff attorney in Seattle who met with the mayor and council members before they voted 5-1 to restore the nativity.
“The city has the right to recognize religious symbols of the holiday along with other secular items in a public display.”
Brad Dacus, the president of PJI, noted, “Our office in Washington State boldly outlined the laws in place that protect and recognize the historical, cultural, and religious value of the nativity scene. We applaud the city for reinforcing history and tradition while rejecting fear.”