To: Governor Tim Pawlenty
Office of the Governor
130 State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights announced that it is purchasing and shipping to every governor a crèche, with a request to display it in a government building to commemorate the Christmas season. An accompanying letter by league president Bill Donohue claims that the displays would pass constitutional muster because they were purchased and donated by a private organization.
Despite Mr. Donohue’s claim, however, private donation does not automatically make them constitutional. The U. S. Supreme Court established in two cases in 2005, McCreary County, Ky., v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and Van Orden v. Perry, that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment requires that the displays must have a secular purpose and must be part of a larger display that balances the religious display with secular images.
We urge you to follow the example of Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington and decline the gift, which is expressly intended to demonstrate government endorsement of Christianity. If you decide, however, to display the crèche in a government building, we offer to provide a secular display to balance the religious message, as required by the Supreme Court rulings cited above.
Chair, Minnesota Atheists
P.O. Box #120304
New Brighton, MN 55112