ALLEGHENY v. ACLU

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
87-2050
Petitioner 
Allegheny
Respondent 
ACLU
Consolidation 
Chabad v. American Civil Liberties Union et al., No. 88-90
City of Pittsburgh v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, et al., No. 88-96
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioners in Nos. 87-2050 and 88-96)
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner in No. 88-90)
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Term:
Facts of the Case 

Two public-sponsored holiday displays in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, were challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union. The first display involved a Christian nativity scene inside the Allegheny County Courthouse. The second display was a large Chanukah menorah, erected each year by the Chabad Jewish organization, outside the City-County building. The ACLU claimed the displays constituted state endorsement of religion. This case was decided together with Chabad v. ACLU and City of Pittsburgh v. ACLU of Greater Pittsburgh.

Question 

Did the public displays violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?

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

In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that the creche inside the courthouse unmistakably endorsed Christianity in violation of the Establishment Clause. By prominently displaying the words "Glory to God for the birth of Jesus Christ," the county sent a clear message that it supported and promoted Christian orthodoxy. The Court also held, however, that not all religious celebrations on government property violated the Establishment Clause. Six of the justices concluded that the display involving the menorah was constitutionally legitimate given its "particular physical setting."

Cite this Page
ALLEGHENY v. ACLU. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 01 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1988/1988_87_2050>.
ALLEGHENY v. ACLU, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1988/1988_87_2050 (last visited October 1, 2014).
"ALLEGHENY v. ACLU," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 1, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1988/1988_87_2050.