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Miracle on West Washington Street: 'The Nativity Story' Now Playing at Chicago's Daley Plaza

City Reverses Position on Showing of Religious Movie Trailer at Annual Christmas Market

 

Contact: Thomas Brejcha, Esq., Thomas More Society, Pro-Life Law Center, 312-782-1680, 312-590-3408

 

CHICAGO, Dec. 20 /Christian Newswire/ -- As the holiday season of Christmas looms every nearer, Catholics and other Christians welcomed the City of Chicago's stunning reversal of its earlier denial to air film clips of the movie "The Nativity Story" at the Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago. 

 

Earlier, Jim Law, Chicago's Executive Director of Special Events had denied New Line Cinema permission to show a trailer for the movie The Nativity Story at a Christmas festival in downtown Chicago. Law stated that the trailer would be "insensitive to the many people of different faiths." 

 

Several days after this denial, the Nativity Scene Committee, led by Jim Finnegan, which has erected a nativity scene on the Daley Center Plaza for several years, amended its permit last week and demanded the Committee be allowed to show film clips of The Nativity Story as part of their religious display.  Finnegan's attorney, Thomas Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, assisted by attorney John Mauck, threatened litigation, and the City backed down on its unconstitutional discrimination against this religious speech and expression on Chicago's Daley Center Plaza.  The film trailer will begin running 11 am Wednesday, December 20th on Daley Plaza located at 50 West Washington Street in Chicago.

 

"For years our client has been the private sponsor of the life size display of the manger depicting the birth of Jesus at Daley Plaza. Now with The Nativity Story movie, they can supplement that display with visual content that brings the message of the Messiah's birth to life," said Brejcha (pronounced "Brekka").  "We are pleased the City has backed off its initial, unconstitutional attempt to stifle this religious expression," Brejcha added.

 

"While the City of Chicago might feel it has to avoid endorsing religious speech, the Constitution and a number of Supreme Court decisions make clear that citizens and private organizations have a right to religious expression in the public square," said John Mauck with Mauck & Baker, whose firm also represents Finnegan.

 

"The right to show this trailer was settled in 1989 when the federal district court issued an agreed order that gave permission to erect the nativity scene and other free-standing, privately funded religious displays on the Daley Center Plaza without discrimination and without regard to the content of their expressions.  Freedom of religious expression in the public square is a protected right," said Brejcha.  "And the Thomas More Society will not allow those wishing to express their Christian views in the public forum to be shoved to the back of the civil rights bus," he added.  

 

Thomas More Society Chairman Jennifer Neubauer had earlier secured her client's right to erect a privately funded nativity scene on the Daley Center Plaza by prevailing in a 1989 case against the City of Chicago and the ACLU. With this precedent clearly establishing the right to freedom of religious expression in Chicago's public square, the City's recent discrimination against The Nativity Story was blatantly illegal.

 

 

About the Thomas More Society, Pro-Life Law Center

 

Founded in 1997, we are a Chicago-based, not-for-profit, public interest law firm laboring in the vineyard, both on 'policy issues' and also when we can help those who cannot afford legal help. Here are some of the cases we've handled this past year:

 

NATIONAL CASES:

 

  1. NOW v. Scheidler – This national "class action" suit, 20 years old, still pends in federal court, Chicago, even after our second victory (8-0) in the U.S. Supreme Court last February. As yet we have no final judgment, as our trial judge is still considering whether to disclose the identity of abortion providers who sued our clients or even to let the providers know they lost! Later, we'll try to recoup "costs" from the other side. We can't get legal fees, only expenses.

 

  1. Partial-Birth Abortion – We've filed a pair of "friend of the Court" briefs in the Supreme Court in support of the Department of Justice's defense of the federal ban on partial-birth abortion.

 

  1. Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood – We filed a pivotal "friend of the Court" brief arguing the very points on which the Supreme Court ruled, 9-0, in favor of New Hampshire's defense of its parental notice law.

 

  1. Minnesota Supreme Court – We won discretionary review before the state's highest court of a conviction of political protesters in a Twin Cities suburb for "criminal nuisance."

 

  1. State of Wisconsin v. Noesen – We appealed to the Wisconsin Appellate Court for Neil Noesen, a pharmacist who was suspended and fined $20,000 for his principled stand as a conscientious objector.

 

  1. Other Cases – We've been defending or pursuing other cases in Tampa, Florida; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; South Bend, Indiana; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Hartford, Connecticut (for the Knights of Columbus National Headquarters), and elsewhere!

 

OUR CASES AFFECTING ILLINOIS:

 

  1. Daley Plaza – As our chairman, Jennifer Neubauer, defeated the ACLU 18 years ago to win a place for the nativity scene on Daley Plaza in Chicago, now we're fighting for the right to show clips from the film, The Nativity Story, banned by the city for fear the film would "offend" others.

 

  1. Parental Notice – We spearheaded a recent, successful (so far!) effort to revive Illinois' parental notice law, enacted back in 1995 but stymied by the Illinois Supreme Court's refusal at that time to enact procedural rules needed to implement the law. We represented the Illinois Catholic Conference and other groups, asking the Illinois Supreme Court Justices finally to enact the rules. A week later, the Court issued the new rules! Now Illinois' Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, must go into federal court to set aside the federal injunction against the parental notice law (won by the ACLU back in 1995). We're poised to intervene, if need be.

 

  1. "Choose Life" License Plates – We're still awaiting a ruling in our lawsuit against the Illinois Secretary of State for his discriminatory refusal to approve a "Choose Life" specialty license plate, while granting plates for other advocacy groups (environmental, fighting cancer, etc.).

 

  1. Are Frozen Embryos Human Beings or Property? – We've filed a friend of the Court brief in the Illinois Appellate Court for the Catholic Conference of Illinois and other groups, to defend (against the ACLU and "in vitro fertilization" clinics) the finding of the Illinois General Assembly that life begins at conception. Our brief bristles with scientific authorities that are overwhelming in support of that essential truth. We call this case, "Dred Scott in a test tube"!

 

  1. Rockford v. Landerholm and Horien – In Winnebago County, we're defending five criminal charges brought against pro-lifers for "nuisance noises" – calling out to abortion-bound moms to save their babies' lives. The city is pursuing a biased prosecution of pro-lifers, while it has ignored loud rock music that the owner of the premises broadcasts out his window to drown out the pro-lifers' advocacy!

 

  1. Rilott v. Rockford – We're preparing a federal lawsuit to void Rockford's "nuisance noises" law as unconstitutional and to redress that city's suppression of a pro-life ad on a "bus bench" under another unconstitutional ordinance.

 

  1. Pro-Life, Pro-Marriage Free Speech Cases – We've defended free speech rights of pro-life & pro-marriage advocates in Chicago, Skokie, DesPlaines, Mundelein, Aurora, Wood Dale, Evanston, Joliet, Lombard, Homewood, Algonquin, Naperville, Joliet, Granite City, Rockford, etc.

 


TOM BREJCHA, president & chief counsel

JENNIFER CRAIGMILE NEUBAUER, chairman and director

ANN SCHEIDLER, director

JOHN CAVANAGH-O’KEEFE, director

DIANE PIETRZAK, director of development

 

Thomas More Society, Pro-Life Law Center

29 South LaSalle St. -- Suite 440 -- Chicago, IL 60603 -- 312-782-1680