Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Nativity Story" preview now playing in Daley Plaza

As I noted on Marathon Pundit a couple of times this month, a German-American group organized its annual Christkindlmarket, a Christmas celebration, in downtown Chicago.

One of the sponsors of this year's event is the film "The Nativity Story."
A trailer of the film was being shown at Christkindlmarket, until the City of Chicago Department of Special Events told the festival organizers to stop playing it. First, the department said the trailer was "insensitive to the many people of different faiths." Its explanation shifted to this retort: the film is "too commercial." The latter stand didn't prevent the McDonalds Thanksgiving Parade from taking place in Chicago last month.

But at today 11:00 am Chicago time, the trailer will return.

From a TC Public Relations press release.

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

(Chicago...Media reports around the world have covered statements by Jim Law, Chicago’s executive director of special events, where he said that a trailer for the movie The Nativity Story could not be shown at a Christmas festival in downtown Chicago. Law stated that the trailer would be "insensitive to the many people of different faiths." Now to show that the cinematic version of Jesus’ birth is welcomed in Chicago, a group of Christians that see the trailer as religious expression have convinced the City of Chicago to allow them to show the trailer. The Christian supporters are Jim Finnegan, one of the sponsors of the manger on Daley Plaza , and Civil Liberties for Urban Believers (CLUB) an association of Chicago churches. The trailer will run from 11 am Wednesday, December 20 through Christmas Day on Daley Plaza located at 50 West Washington Street in Chicago. Press conference at 11 am on Wednesday, December 20th.

"For years I’ve had the privilege of being involved in presentation of Chicago nativity scene that displayed at Daley Plaza. Showing The Nativity Story trailer after Chicago officials had first declared that there was no room at "Daley Plaza Inn" represents a victory for all civil liberties and a welcomed accommodation that brings the message of the Messiah’s birth to life," said Jim Finnegan.

"While the City of Chicago certainly should not endorse 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 worked with Finnegan, CLUB, and the Chicago-based Thomas More Society to file for the permits to show the trailer, "Ironically, this past summer, despite many people being offended by the governmental endorsement of the Gay Games, the City of Chicago promoted that event enthusiastically. In contrast we had to work hard and threaten litigation to overcome the City's initial prohibition against a private group showing people the Savior of the world in a public place. Hopefully Chicago will stop discriminating against religious speech."

The right to show this trailer was settled in 1989 when Jennifer Neubauer, then a private lawyer and now chairman of Thomas More Society, filed a federal lawsuit and won a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction from Chief Judge James B. Parsons of the U.S. District Court in Chicago, prohibiting any discrimination against private religious expression on Daley Center Plaza, a traditional public forum. The court granted permission to erect religious displays on public property without discrimination against expression on account of religious content. "The reason we can now see a manger with Jesus, an Islamic Crescent and a Jewish Menorah is because of that court case back in the 1980's. Freedom of religious expression in the public square is protected as one of our most fundamental rights under the First Amendment," said Tom Brejcha, Chief Counsel, Thomas More Society of Chicago.


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