For Immediate Release
Contact: Brian Magee, 202-238-9088, email@example.com
(Washington, DC – Dec. 18, 2012) – A Christian nativity scene has been joined by a HumanLight display on the grounds of the Wabash County Indiana courthouse. County officials approved it on Dec. 3 following an inquiry made by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
HumanLight is a non-religious alternative to Christmas or other December holidays. Observed on December 23rd, HumanLight celebrates positive, secular values such as reason, compassion, humanity and hope.
Attorneys from the Appignani Humanist Legal Center worked with a local Wabash resident who inquired in November about a Christian display on government property. Research showed that the county has an “open forum” policy for the courthouse property, meaning other displays can also be erected. In response to a previous inquiry in 2010, officials wrote that the county “allows anyone to use the Courthouse lawn for expressive purposes as long as the activity does not violate local ordinances, or state or federal laws, is not disruptive to traffic . . . and does not create unreasonable safety risks, and as long as any expression is not obscene or defamatory, and does not promote violence, physical harm, or lawless action.”
“When it comes to church-state separation issues, the best choice is to keep government property free of all religious displays,” said Appignani Humanist Legal Center Director Bill Burgess. “But if a local government defends a nativity scene display by claiming that it is private speech, they must allow other private speakers, including secular ones, to participate in the forum on the same terms. They cannot discriminate against speech because of its humanist or atheist viewpoint.”
The American Humanist Association (www.AmericanHumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, its work is extended through more than 150 local chapters and affiliates across America. Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation and The Herb Block Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.