Thanks to the tireless efforts of Jim Finnegan, one of our longtime supporters, and his attorney, Tom Brejcha — who also represented my boss, Joe Scheidler, during his 20-year court battle with NOW — the trailers for the movie The Nativity Story are now playing in Chicago’s Daley Plaza:
CHICAGO, Dec. 20 — 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.