Florida Holiday Display Altered After AU Protests

A Florida town has made efforts to alter a religious display on government property following a complaint from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In a July 12 letter, Americans United Assistant Legal Director Richard Katskee informed the Walton County Board of Commissioners that an annual nativity scene outside the Walton County Courthouse raised constitutional issues.

Katskee’s letter stated that government “sponsorship of an exclusively Christian holiday display” clearly violates the First Amendment principle of separation of church and state.

“In displaying a crèche alone,” Katskee continued, “Walton County has endorsed Christianity, improperly conveying the message to ‘nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.’”

Katskee asked the county representatives not to erect the nativity scene or take steps to ensure the display was not exclusively Christian.

In late November, the county commission moved to include other items in the display, such as a snowman, a Christmas tree and Santa Claus.

Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Alex Luchenitser told the Northwest Florida Daily News, that the additional items should prevent litigation, unless the display remained focused on Christianity.