Lynch v. Donnelly
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Time Period
3/5/1984
Description
Lynch v. Donnelly (1994) concerned whether the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island could place a nativity scene in a city park as part of a Christmas display containing other, less explicitly symbols of the holiday. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Burger argued that the placement of the crèche did not violate the Establishment Clause, in part because the nativity scene was included in the display with non-religious symbols, suggesting that the display was not a promotion of Christianity. Moreover, he argued that the Establishment Clause does not require absolute separation of church and state, but rather an accommodation between the two. This opinion is also notable for Justice O'Connell's modification of the "Lemon test," in which she suggested that laws regarding religion were constitutional so long as they neither endorsed nor disapproved of religion.
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Photographs

Nativity scene with reindeer, poinsettias, and Santa- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Visitor7 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Slater Mill park, Pawtucket, where the Christmas display was located- Library of Congress, HAER RI,4-PAWT,3--1

Chief Justice Warren Burger- US Government photo
Book/Journal Source(s)
Flowers, Ronald, 2005. That Godless Court? Supreme Court Decisions on Church-State Relationships, 2nd ed.. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
Web Page Contributor
Robert Martin
Affliated with: Assistant Professor, Southeastern Lousiana University

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