ACLU Warns Florida City About Christmas Display

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A South Florida city is facing a Christmas controversy in July.

The American Civil Liberties Union has threatened to sue the city of Plantation if puts up its annual Christmas display.

The Sun-Sentinel newspaper reported that the city displays Christian and Jewish symbols in a city park every Christmas.

However, the Broward chapter of the ACLU called the holiday display planned for Liberty Tree Park "Inappropriate."

The ACLU says the display violates the separation of church and state because it promotes two religions and ignores all others.

"We feel it's a violation of the First Amendment and an endorsement of religion," the ACLU's Barry Butin told the newspaper.

"If they were really neutral and didn't favor one over the other, they'd have a more inclusive display: Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist," he added.

In its previous displays of both Christian and Jewish symbols, the city relied on a 1984 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said cities can exhibit religious elements if they don't endorse one faith over another.

The ACLU has warned city officials twice about setting up the display. Their first letter was answered with a sharp response from Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic, who said "the city would take it under advisement."

"If we agree to put the Nativity scene out there, we are in danger of a lengthy lawsuit," City Councilman Bob Levy said. "If we don't put it out there, we unfortunately are turning our backs on a number of citizens who would like it there."

"No real decision has been made yet," City Attorney Don Lunny told the newspaper.

The public has been invited to comment at budget hearing sessions set for Aug. 25, Sept. 14 and Sept. 21.

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