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Pro Bono Victory For Religious Freedom


After Chabad of Naperville, a local Jewish organization, was denied the right to place a Menorah on the Naperville Riverwalk near the Santa House, we agreed to take up the cause as its legal counsel. We volunteered to do this because our firm believes in equal religious freedom for all–whether Christianity, Islam, Jewish, Hinduism, Sikhism, or any other religion! We were successful in getting the Park District to reverse its decision.

The Daily Herald’s article explained the controversy, in part, as follows:

The Naperville Park District will add a menorah to its holiday display that currently features Santa Claus. Commissioners, feeling they could face a lawsuit, took up the matter behind closed doors Thursday. The park district had rejected an earlier request by the Chabad Jewish Center of Naperville to display the candelabrum. However, the majority of the board on Thursday agreed to accept the menorah donation and make it part of the display at the Riverwalk. Goldstein had sent a letter to the park district last month asking for permission to add the menorah to the park district’s Santa House display along the Riverwalk. The park district turned him down, saying its ordinances prohibit any private entity or person from erecting any kind of symbol or message at the Riverwalk.

In an interview with the Daily Herald Wednesday, Chabad attorney David Fish said it would be illegal discrimination to display Christian symbols but reject the Jewish ones. Park district attorney Derke Price disagreed, saying that only applies when a government entity is letting private groups display their symbols. In this case, the display is being created by a public body – the park district.

Park district commissioners discussed the issue in closed session Thursday calling it a matter of “imminent litigation. “His (Fish’s) conversations with me were of a nature I was told by him that I needed to express to my client the risk and exposure they had under the Supreme Court cases,” Price said after the meeting. “That’s sufficient to go to imminent litigation.”