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Santa & 1st Amendment Attys Busy During Holidays

Posted Dec 21, 2007 12:52 PM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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If you thought Santa was busy this time of year, think about lawyers who specialize in religious expression.

They report an upswing of calls in November and December dealing with a host of issues, from public school choirs singing religious songs to nativity displays on government property, the Washington Post reports.

Many calls come from public officials asking how not to get sued. The Post notes that while the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a number of times on religious expression cases, the rulings hinge on the details, which "means fertile ground for competing legal opinions and disagreement."

Among the cases creating tension this season:

• A plastic nativity scene in front of Exmore's Town Hall in Virginia.

• A student Bible club in Massachusetts stopped from handing out candy canes with religious messages.

• A Florida court clerk barred from displaying a nativity scene in her office.

Among the lawyers quoted is Thomas Hutton, a senior staff attorney for the National School Boards Association. He says his office always gets more calls this time of year and three years ago devoted a newsletter to addressin holiday-related issues. He notes that things seem quieter this year, though.

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