For over 60 years, each Christmas, John Satawa and his family had displayed a nativity scene in the median strip of a county road in Warren, Michigan. In December 2008, the County Road Commission received a written complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The Road Commission acquiesced ...
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For over 60 years, each Christmas, John Satawa and his family had displayed a nativity scene in the median strip of a county road in Warren, Michigan. In December 2008, the County Road Commission received a written complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The Road Commission acquiesced to the complaint and denied Mr. Satawa a permit for 2009, prompting the filing of this federal lawsuit. The case was filed on October 23, 2009, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the Macomb County Road Commission. The plaintiff, represented by an attorney from the American Freedom law center and private counsel, sought declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. He alleged that the defendant's denial of his permit application to place a crèche on a median strip of a county road during the Christmas holiday season violated his rights under the Constitution's Free Speech clause, Establishment clause, and the Equal Protection clause.
On December 28, 2009, the District Court (Judge Gerald E. Rosen) denied Mr. Satawa's motion for a preliminary injunction. On April 19, 2011, Judge Rosen granted the Road Commission's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety. The plaintiff appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit.
On August 1, 2012, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Danny J. Boggs) agreed with the District Court's Establishment Clause holding against the plaintiff. However, the Court reversed the District Court's rulings on the plaintiff's Free Speech and Equal Protection claims. The Court of Appeals found that the median area constituted a traditional public forum, and therefore any restrictions on speech there would have to be narrowly tailored; the denial of the permit was NOT narrowly tailored, the Court of Appeals held, and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings.
The parties settled the matter on November 29, 2012, and stipulated to dismiss the lawsuit. According to his lawyers' press release, Mr. Satawa installed his nativity scene that season. The voluntary dismissal was agreed to by the district court; the case was dismissed as of January 3, 2013. Emma Bao - 06/03/2013