When the City of Clarksville’s annual Christmas on the Cumberland Celebration appeared to be singling out a particular religious view for favorable treatment, city residents contacted ACLU-TN.
Upon investigation, ACLU-TN learned that the City of Clarksville annually invited a private church to perform a Nativity play, provided funding for the animals used in the production and promoted the performance as a part of the city’s Christmas on the Cumberland event without including a disclaimer anywhere to demonstrate that the city did not endorse the message of this particular church. In addition, the city did not have an established process for groups to obtain space in the park for the event, in effect limiting other groups’ access to space in the park during the celebration.
On November 11, 2009, ACLU-TN sent a letter to the City of Clarksville outlining our specific concerns and suggestions to bring the city’s annual celebration in compliance with state and federal law. At no time did ACLU-TN ever request that the Nativity portion of the celebration be removed; only that all groups should be given equal access to the celebration and that the City should not elevate this particular church for special treatment.
The city ultimately agreed not to fund such displays any longer, to place a disclaimer near the Nativity making clear that it is a private display/performance and to implement a policy and application process relating to the renting or permitting of the public parks so that no one group or religious organization is elevated for favorable treatment by city officials.
Clarksville Demand Letter (November 11, 2009)