High Court OKs Putting Menorah in City’s Plaza
The Supreme Court on Friday upheld a federal judge’s ruling that Cincinnati cannot bar a Jewish organization from displaying a menorah on a downtown plaza during the holidays.
In its ruling, the high court lifted a stay by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, noting the square’s historic character as a public forum.
A municipal ordinance says that only the city can use Fountain Square from the last two weeks of November through the first week of January. The ordinance grew out of the city’s efforts to prevent the Ku Klux Klan from erecting a cross during the Christmas season.
Chabad of Southern Ohio, a nonprofit Jewish organization, challenged the ordinance, saying it violated the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.
City lawyers argued that allowing private groups to erect unattended displays would overcrowd the square and make it difficult for the city to keep order.
U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott ruled Wednesday that the ordinance attempts to transform the square into a zone where only the city’s message is welcome, and ordered the city to provide permits allowing Chabad to erect a menorah during the holidays.
Immediately after Dlott’s ruling, the city asked the appeals court for an emergency stay, which was granted a few hours later.