LYNCH v. DONNELLY

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
82-1256
Petitioner 
Lynch
Respondent 
Donnelly
Advocates
(on behalf of the Petitioners)
(on behalf of the Respondents)
(on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

The city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, annually erected a Christmas display located in the city's shopping district. The display included such objects as a Santa Claus house, a Christmas tree, a banner reading "Seasons Greetings," and a nativity scene. The creche had been included in the display for over 40 years. Daniel Donnelly objected to the display and took action against Dennis Lynch, the Mayor of Pawtucket.

Question 

Did the inclusion of a nativity scene in the city's display violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Lynch, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Establishment of Religion

No. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that notwithstanding the religious significance of the creche, the city had not violated the Establishment Clause. The Court found that the display, viewed in the context of the holiday season, was not a purposeful or surreptitious effort to advocate a particular religious message. The Court found that the display merely depicted the historical origins of the Holiday and had "legitimate secular purposes." The Court held that the symbols posed no danger of establishing a state church and that it was "far too late in the day to impose a crabbed reading of the [Establishment] Clause on the country."

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LYNCH v. DONNELLY. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 01 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1983/1983_82_1256>.
LYNCH v. DONNELLY, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1983/1983_82_1256 (last visited September 1, 2014).
"LYNCH v. DONNELLY," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 1, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1983/1983_82_1256.