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Jewish Groups Challenge Ordinance

November 13, 2002

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CINCINNATI (AP) _ Two Jewish groups filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging an ordinance banning anyone but the city from holding events or erecting displays at a downtown plaza during the holiday season.

City officials had said the ordinance, which was passed in April, was intended to encourage economic development by keeping Fountain Square uncluttered during the year’s busiest retail season.

The ordinance prevents the Ku Klux Klan from erecting a cross in the square, as it had done for several years in the 1990s. In 1993 a federal judge granted an injunction blocking city attempts to prevent Klan displays.

The lawsuit was filed by Chabad of Southern Ohio, a nonprofit religious organization, and Congregation Lubavitch, which want to continue erecting a menorah on the square. The suit calls the ordinance an unconstitutional ``administrative scheme.″

Robert Johnstone, a deputy city solicitor, did not return a message seeking Cincinnati’s response to the suit, which was filed shortly before the court closed.

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