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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

No Room At the Inn: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, wise men barred from Memphis library display

    Government officials do not have the authority to pick and choose which items in a Christmas nativity scene are acceptable for display," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Nate Kellum.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Attorneys at the Alliance Defense Fund are working to educate library officials in Memphis about the unconstitutionality of their exclusion of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the wise men from a nativity scene.

"It truly is ridiculous that we even have to discuss whether a nativity scene can be displayed at Christmas," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Nate Kellum. "Libraries are supposed to encourage free expression and thought. Government officials do not have the authority to pick and choose which items in a Christmas nativity
scene are acceptable for display."

Brandi Chambless, a member of the music ministry at Broadmoor Memphis Church, submitted an announcement for display on the library's community shelves regarding the church's upcoming Christmas show.

Library officials accepted the announcement but told Chambless that she would have to remove the "inappropriate" figures of the baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary, and the wise men from an accompanying nativity scene and limit it to farm animals alone.

The community shelves have traditionally been open to groups and individuals for the display of announcements, advertisements, and other items as a means of providing information to the community.

In a Dec. 5 letter to Memphis/Shelby County Public Library officials, Kellum explained that displays such as the one submitted by Chambless in no way violate the U.S. Constitution.

"It is blatantly unconstitutional for the government to single out speech from a church for discrimination simply because it is religious. For this reason, the refusal to allow Broadmoor Memphis an opportunity to display the nativity scene because the display is religious is a violation of First Amendment rights," Kellum wrote. A copy of the letter is available at

As part of ADF's Christmas Project, ADF-allied attorneys have contacted more than 10,300 school districts nationwide so far this year to inform them of the truth regarding religious expression at Christmastime. For more information on the project, visit www.saychristmas.org.

ADF is a legal alliance defending America's first liberty--religious freedom--through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.



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