WARREN, MI – After four years of litigation by the Thomas More Law Center, John Satawa will once again be able to erect a Nativity display on a public median in Warren, Michigan—a tradition that his family and neighbors have been observing every Christmas since 1945.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, commented: “Every December, militant secularists declare war on Christmas celebrations. This is one battle they lost. And we are extremely pleased that Mr. Satawa and his neighbors will be able to resume their wonderful tradition just in time for this Christmas.”
The Nativity display had been erected and maintained by members of the Satawa family and their neighbors every Christmas since 1945 without a single complaint.
However, in December 2008 the Macomb County Road Commission received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation which claimed the presence of the Nativity display on the public median violated the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
Reacting to the letter, on March 9, 2009 the Road Commission issued a formal denial of Satawa’s Nativity permit application claiming as its reason that it “displays a religious message.”
After the Commission’s denial, Mr. Satawa contacted the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor Michigan, for help.
On October 23, 2009 the Thomas More Law Center filed a lawsuit against the Road Commission. A Federal District Court in Detroit initially sided with the Road Commission’s ban on Satawa’s Nativity display.
However, in August 2012 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the District Court decision and ruled in favor of Satawa’s right to erect the Nativity display. As a result of that ruling, the Macomb County Road Commission agreed to allow John Satawa to resume the annual tradition of erecting the nativity display at its location on Mound Road in Warren during the 2012 Christmas season and all future Christmas seasons.
The Nativity display is expected to go up this year on December 15th.