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updated: 11/23/2012 5:36 PM

Complaint filed after Arlington Hts. rejects Nativity scene

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  • A previous year's Arlington Heights Christmas tree in North School Park.

      A previous year's Arlington Heights Christmas tree in North School Park.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • A little girl kisses a dreidel after the lighting ceremony in 2007.

      A little girl kisses a dreidel after the lighting ceremony in 2007.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 
 

The Thomas More Society said Friday it has filed a complaint with the Arlington Heights Park District because it rejected a Nativity scene for the annual holiday display in North School Park.

The display will be turned on today at 4:30 p.m. as the village welcomes the holidays and marks the end of its yearlong 125th anniversary celebration.

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In a release Friday, Thomas Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, said the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee submitted 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."

The release argues that the display, which features more than 70,000 lights, has Hanukkah dreidels.

"The inclusion of the dreidels would infer that religious symbols have not been excluded from the celebration, and privately sponsored religious displays and ceremonies in traditional public forums are constitutionally protected," the release states.

Park board President Maryfran Leno said Friday the request to include a Nativity came from a former resident who wanted to include his own Nativity scene. She said it was inconsistent with the park district's long-standing practice of using only its own property in the display.

She acknowledged that the park district board has received a request to reconsider its decision and that the park district attorney is currently discussing the matter with the other party's attorney.

Brejcha said that was true, and that he and the park district's attorney were playing phone tag Friday, a day both were supposed to be off.

Leno said the inclusion of dreidels is consistent with the toy theme of the display.

She said the 21-year-old display has never included a Nativity scene and this was the first time a request had been received to include one belonging to somebody else.

"We said thank you very much, but no thank you," Leno said.

Brejcha said past practice is not a strong reason to reject the request.

"With due respect, they ought to change the policy," Brejcha said. "There's plenty of room in the park. The park belongs to the people."

Brejcha said he has faith the disagreement will be resolved amicably.

"I have a lot of optimism," he said. "We've never had to sue anyone."

The Thomas More Society is a Chicago-based public interest law firm, is instrumental in its support of this constitutionally protected display of religion in the public square.

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