Ruling allows Kwanzaa celebration to move forward as planned - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Ruling allows Kwanzaa celebration to move forward as planned

A ruling Wednesday morning by Shelby County Chancery Judge Walter Evans cleared the way for a Kwanzaa celebration to be held later that evening in the chambers of the Shelby County Commission.

Evans dismissed a lawsuit that attempted to block a Kwanzaa celebration from being held inside the county building.

Probate Court Clerk Chris Thomas filed the complaint Friday against both the Shelby County government and Commissioner Henri Brooks, who planned the celebration.

At the center of the issue was a law that says religion and government must remain separate.

Thomas claimed it would be discriminatory for the county to allow Brooks to hold the Kwanzaa celebration, which he claimed was a religious celebration, in the County Commission chambers, while earlier denying his request to hold a Christmas celebration there.

"I'm still agreeing with the people that said its cultural, but it does have religious aspects of it," Thomas said.

Brooks told Action News 5 earlier this week that she has hosted the celebration at the Pink Palace for the past 12 years, but was forced to move it after officials there asked her to pay $300 to use the facility. 

After the hearing Wednesday, Brooks was pleased with the judge's decision.

"We can always remember that truth always triumphs over evil," she said.

In court, it was revealed that Thomas held his own holiday luncheon on Shelby County property earlier this month.

"My judges and I had a holiday luncheon," he said.  "(We) Didn't do anything but ate food, and we called it a 'holiday luncheon' because I'm very sensitive to other faiths, and I know the law."

Brooks said the case actually helped heighten awareness of Kwanzaa, an annual event to honor African American heritage.

After the hearing, Thomas maintained he felt discriminated against as a Christian.  For her part, Brooks said she is a Christian, but also a person who celebrates Kwanzaa.

The event went on as scheduled Wednesday night.


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