Every year during the Christmas holiday season, the City of Pawtucket, Rhode Island (City) builds a large, public Christmas display. The display includes traditional “secular” Christmas images such as Santa Claus and reindeer figures, as well as a religious crèche. The City originally spent public funds to acquire the display, but currently spends nominal costs erecting and maintaining it each year. Donnelly (plaintiff) brought suit against Lynch (defendant), the mayor and the City in federal district court on the ground that the display violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The district court agreed and held the display unconstitutional, and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.