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Creche Barred From Historic Green In Massachusetts.

A local ordinance in Lexington, Mass., that regulates displays on the town green is constitutional, a federal court has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner on Dec. 6 upheld a new Lexington law that forbids the placement of "unattended structures" on the green for more than eight hours at a time. In doing so, she rejected a lawsuit from the Knights of Columbus, which had sued to have the ordinance overturned.

The Knights had been displaying a large Nativity scene on the green annually in late December for several years. Some residents have complained that the display amounts to a city endorsement of religion and threatened to demand the right to display other types of religious symbols. In response, the town selectmen decided to ban them all.

"The selectmen recognized that if they allowed the creche, they would also have to permit each of these other displays to avoid endorsing any particular religion in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution," Gertner wrote in the Knights of Columbus v. Town of Lexington ruling. "On the other hand, the selectmen worried that allowing such a variety of unattended structures -- and livestock -- to clutter the Green would disturb the historic ambiance of the area and detract from the residents' and tourists' experience of the town."

Lexington Green is famous as the site of one of the first skirmishes of the American Revolution, when colonists clashed with British troops on April 19, 1775.
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Feb 1, 2001
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