Michigan Crèche Backer Doesn’t Get Christmas Wish

A federal district court in Michigan has upheld a county’s decision not to permit a Nativity display on the median of a busy road.

A Michigan family had erected the crèche at the site in Macomb County since 1945, but in 2008 county officials received a complaint about it.

The county told the family they could no longer put up the display, which was 9 feet high, 8 feet wide and 7 feet deep. Soon after, John Satawa sued, claiming his free speech, equal protection and religious liberty rights were being violated. (Satawa was represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a right-wing Catholic legal outfit.)

U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen said the county has the right to deny the crèche display because a road median is not a traditional public forum. The judge noted in his 48-page opinion that the county also has a compelling safety interest in keeping the median clear.

The case is Satawa v. Board of County Road Commissioners of Macomb County.