Court Rules Private Display of Nativity Scene is Allowed in Public Places

A Nativity scene is going back up on public land in a Detroit suburb after a man sued to save the decades-old display.
Warren, MI – A nativity scene that dates back to 1945 will be back up this year, after a 4-year absence. The federal court of appeals has deemed that the private display of a nativity scene on Mound Road’s median in Warren, Michigan, is constitutional and that the city’s refusal to allow the display violated the First Amendment.

In 2008 the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a threatening letter to the Macomb County Road Commission. The Sataway family had displayed a nativity on the public median since 1945. In 2008, when the family applied for a permit for the nativity, the government denied the request because the nativity contains “a religious message.” The family filed suit, claiming the government violated their right to free speech. The court of appeals agreed.

Liberty Counsel offers pro bono counsel and litigation, if needed, to support a town’s right to display nativity scenes in public places.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Unfortunately some public officials mistakenly believe that censoring religious viewpoints from the public square is the safest approach, when, in fact, that violates the First Amendment.”

Liberty Counsel launched its tenth annual “Friend or Foe” Christmas Campaign to educate and, if necessary, litigate to make sure religious viewpoints are not censored during Christmas. Liberty Counsel provides information about Christmas at and a “Naughty & Nice” list, which overviews retailers that acknowledge Christmas and those that do not.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.