PHILADELPHIA, Penn. (EP) – A federal appeals court ruled Jan. 13 that a Christmas display in Jersey City, N.J., violated the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. The display featured both a Christian creche and a Jewish menorah.
The appeals court also ruled that a lower court was wrong when it found that the city had successfully “secularized” the display by adding non-religious holiday symbols.
“Jersey City’s display of the creche at the seat of the City government power impermissably conveyed a message of government endorsement of religion. And, in our view, the City’s addition of Santa, Frosty and a red sled did little to secularize that message,” said a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
The ruling came in a 1994 law suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU is seeking to end the three-decade-old tradition of displaying a creche and menorah in front of Jersey City Hall.
The city added secular holiday symbols when a lower court ruled in favor of the ACLU. It also added Kwanzaa symbols to the Christmas tree, and erected a sign noting that the display was part of a year-round celebration of cultural diversity. The lower court ruled that the city had successfully “demystified, desanctified and deconsecrated” the religious message of the display.