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Letter from Law Firm Regarding Denial of Permit for Christmas Nativity Display in Arlington Heights, IL

Letter from Law Firm Regarding Denial of Permit for Christmas Nativity Display in Arlington Heights, IL

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Published by Tom Ciesielka
EXCERPT FROM LETTER:

We are counsel to Mr. Jim Finnegan, chairman, and the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee, whose members are aggrieved by recent advice from Mr. Scholten that the Arlington Heights Park Board had rejected the Committee’s application to display a privately sponsored, privately funded Nativity Scene in Arlington Heights’ North Park, adjacent to the Village’s 2012/2013 Holiday Display. We understand that since 1991 the Holiday Display has been celebrated at North School Park, at Eastman Street and Arlington Heights Road, featuring over 70,000 tiny lights, a decorated evergreen on the Park’s fountain, lit up streetscape trees, and a number of “display pieces” carrying out a children’s toy theme, including: large garland bear; sleigh; airplane; two soldiers; train; ice skaters; arches; dreidels; a large wreath; frosty; and a spinning bear. While the display is supervised by the Park Board, we gather as well that the Village also participates in the installation, funding, and sponsorship of one of more of the displays. Thus we’re also sending copies of this letter to the Mayor/President, Village Manager, Village Attorney, and Village Trustees.
With respect, we must quarrel with your decision to reject what was a timely, genuine, and fully legitimate request to include a Nativity Scene, a constitutionally protected private expression of religious belief, among the many other planned Christmas-themed displays in this public celebration of the holiday season.
EXCERPT FROM LETTER:

We are counsel to Mr. Jim Finnegan, chairman, and the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee, whose members are aggrieved by recent advice from Mr. Scholten that the Arlington Heights Park Board had rejected the Committee’s application to display a privately sponsored, privately funded Nativity Scene in Arlington Heights’ North Park, adjacent to the Village’s 2012/2013 Holiday Display. We understand that since 1991 the Holiday Display has been celebrated at North School Park, at Eastman Street and Arlington Heights Road, featuring over 70,000 tiny lights, a decorated evergreen on the Park’s fountain, lit up streetscape trees, and a number of “display pieces” carrying out a children’s toy theme, including: large garland bear; sleigh; airplane; two soldiers; train; ice skaters; arches; dreidels; a large wreath; frosty; and a spinning bear. While the display is supervised by the Park Board, we gather as well that the Village also participates in the installation, funding, and sponsorship of one of more of the displays. Thus we’re also sending copies of this letter to the Mayor/President, Village Manager, Village Attorney, and Village Trustees.
With respect, we must quarrel with your decision to reject what was a timely, genuine, and fully legitimate request to include a Nativity Scene, a constitutionally protected private expression of religious belief, among the many other planned Christmas-themed displays in this public celebration of the holiday season.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Tom Ciesielka on Nov 21, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/03/2012

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T
HOMAS
M
ORE
S
OCIETY
 
 A National Public Interest Law Firm
29 S. LaSalle | Suite 440 | Chicago, IL 60603 | www.thomasmoresociety.org | P: 312.782.1680 | F: 312.782.1887
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – 
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
November 20, 2012
 By Fedex Delivery (w/ enclosure)
 Mr. Steven Scholten Ms. Maryfran H. Leno, PresidentExecutive Director, Arlington Parks Arlington Heights, Park District410 North Arlington Heights Road c/o 410 North Arlington Heights RoadArlington Heights, IL 60004 Arlington Heights, IL 60004Mr. Myles Naughton, Vice-President Mr. Robert Nesvacil, CommissionerArlington Heights, Park District Arlington Heights, Park Districtc/o 410 North Arlington Heights Road c/o 410 North Arlington Heights RoadArlington Heights, IL 60004 Arlington Heights, IL 60004Mr. Robert Smith, Commissioner Mr. Robert Whisler, CommissionerArlington Heights, Park District Arlington Heights, Park Districtc/o 410 North Arlington Heights Road c/o 410 North Arlington Heights RoadArlington Heights, IL 60004 Arlington Heights, IL 60004RE: Denial of Permit for Christmas Nativity Display at 2012/2013 North School Park Holiday Display in the Village of Arlington Heights_-- Nov. through Jan. 6
th
 Dear Mr. Scholten, Ms. Leno, Mr. Naughton, and Commissioners:We are counsel to Mr. Jim Finnegan, chairman, and the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee,whose members are aggrieved by recent advice from Mr. Scholten that the Arlington Heights Park Board had reject
ed the Committee’s
application to display a privately sponsored, privately funded
 Nativity Scene in Arlington Heights’ North Park, adjacent to the Village’s 2012/2013 Holiday Display.
We understand that since 1991 the Holiday Display has been celebrated at North School Park, atEastman Street and Arlington Heights Road, featuring over 70,000 tiny lights, a decorated evergreen on
the Park’s fountain, lit up streetscape trees, and a number of “display pieces” carrying out a children’s
toy theme, including: large garland bear; sleigh; airplane; two soldiers; train; ice skaters; arches;dreidels; a large wreath; frosty; and a spinning bear. While the display is supervised by the Park Board, we gather as well that the Village also participates in the installation, funding, and sponsorship of one of more of 
the displays. Thus we’re also sending copies of this letter to the Mayor 
 /President,Village Manager, Village Attorney, and Village Trustees.With respect, we must quarrel with your decision to reject what was a timely, genuine, and fullylegitimate request to include a Nativity Scene, a constitutionally protected private expression of religiousbelief, among the many other planned Christmas-themed displays in this public celebration of theholiday season. Clearly, as the courts have repeatedly held, from time immemorial our streets and parkshave been regarded as traditional public
 fora
in which citizens may exercise their rights of free speech,and of course, religious expression counts as much as any secular form of expression as fully protectedfree speech. This principle, if ever in doubt, was securely established here some 23 years ago when
 
 Chief Judge James B. Parsons of the U.S. District Court in Chicago held in
Grutzmacher v. Public Bldg.
Comm’n,
700 F. Supp. 1497, 1988 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13251 (11/23/88), that “religious expressive
conduct in a traditional public forum enjoys the same protections afforded political, artistic, or othertypes of protected speech under the First Amendment. *** Therefore, the responsibility of the ExecutiveDirector and the members of the Commission is to administer this public forum without discriminationagainst any who would use it regardless of their religion or regardless of their abstention from religion.This is a basic responsibility they must perform. Incidentally, it may never be properly performed by
saying to any one type of user as against the other, ‘It is easier for us to administer the city’s properties if 
no religionists come aboard. We would prefer not to have religionists of any type aboard our Daley
Plaza.’
What a revolting and ridiculous position to be taken here in the United States of America
and
 presumably under the mandate of our Constitution.”
(Exh. A to the enclosed draft complaint, pp. 6-7;emphasis supplied).Chief Judge Parsons then entered a preliminary injunction, barring the Public BuildingCommission from excluding from Daley Plaza either Grutzmacher, with his Nativity Display, or co-plaintiff Lubavitch Chabad, with its Menorah Display, or any other religious
applicants, “withoutdiscrimination and without regard to the content of their expressions, religious or otherwise,” etc.
Thereafter, on December 15, 1989, the Chief Judge made this injunction permanent. Since that time, theNativity Display has been permitted to appear annually at Christmas time on Daley Plaza, along with aMenorah, and more recently, an Islamic Crescent.Just several years ago, the Commission once again purported to block the public display of scenes from the movie,
 Nativity Story
, which a vendor sought to exhibit as part of the city of Chicago’s“Christ Child Market,” or as expressed in German, “Christkindlmarket”
 
 – 
a holiday festival on the Plazathat has been renewed annually. A religious association then proposed to show scenes from the movie,and they retained us to prepare a federal complaint, a copy of which is enclosed, to secure their right tomount the display. But we never had to file or prosecute that complaint, for after we had the opportunityto discuss the matter with counsel for the city and the Public Building Commission, they withdrew theirobjection. Our client was permitted to fund, sponsor, and mount the display amidst the secularChristkindlmarket displays. And, of course, the Nativity Scene, sponsored by Jim Finnegan and hisgroup, was also displayed next to the Christkindlmarket exhibits, in compliance with Chief Judge
Parsons’ injunction.
 Similarly, we now request, with re
spect, that you reconsider your denial of our client’s request
for display of a privately sponsored, privately funded Nativity Scene in North Park next to or whollyapart from the Arlington Heights Holiday Display. Certainly, such a display could be fit into the amplyspacious park area, equally as we fit the
 Nativity Story
movie display and Chicago Nativity Scene intoDaley Plaza along with Christkindlmarket. The Nativity Scene would also fit in thematically with theother displays, in the sense that all of them honor the holiday season, whose religious aspects cannotlawfully be discriminated against, as Chief Judge Parsons ruled, in deference to its purely secular(sleigh, frosty, etc.) aspects. Inclusion of dreidels, moreover, already injects the religious symbolism of Chanukah among the displays, and we can think of no legally defensible reason why the Nativity Scene,identified as privately sponsored and funded, should be barred.
Indeed, you cannot delete “Christ” from“Christmas.”
 
 
 We understand that the Park Holiday Display is scheduled to begin with a tree lighting thiscoming Friday. Thus time is of the essence, and we urge that you contact us right away as to whetheryour Board will reconsider and admit the Nativity Scene. At a minimum, the Nativity Scene should bedisplayed for a decent length of time leading up to Christmas Day, on December 25
th
.Next Tuesday, on November 27
th
, another client of ours, the Springfield Nativity Scene
Committee (“SNSC”)
will be unveiling the fifth annual Nativity Scene Display in the Rotunda of our
Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, right next to the Governor’s “
Holiday Tree.
We also enclose a
flyer for that event. When we first petitioned the Secretary of State for permission to mount thisNativity Scene in the Rotunda, even the ACLU publicly confirmed that SNSC, another privatelyorganized and funded entity, enjoyed every right under the First Amendment, to place a Nativity Scenethere, at the very heart of our Illinois state government. That is because the Rotunda of our Illinois StateCapitol also qualifies, equally as North Park in Arlington Heights, as a traditional public forum.We hope and trust that this matter may be resolved amicably, as well as promptly, in the truecommunal and peaceable spirit of the Christmas season. We look forward to hearing from you as soonas possible.Sincerely yours,TB/scm Thomas Brejchacc:
 By Email Transmittal w/ enclosure
President & Chief CounselMayor Arlene J. Mulder(mayor@vah.com)  Trustee Thomas W. Hayes(thayes@vah.com)  Trustee Carol J. Blackwood(cblackw@vah.com)  Trustee Norman Breyer(nbreyer@vah.com)  Trustee Joseph C. Farwell( jfawell@vah.com)  Trustee Thomas Glasgow(tglasgow@vah.com)  Trustee Bert Rosenberg(brosenberg@vah.com)  Trustee John Scaletta( jscaletta@vah.com)  Trustee Mike Sidor(msidor@vah.com) 
 By Fedex to the Village Hall w/ enclosure
Mr. Bill Dixon, Village ManagerRobin Ward, Esq., Assistant Village Attorney

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