A real-estate agent who tried to get a nativity scene placed alongside a "holiday tree" and a menorah in the state Capitol rotunda has filed...

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A real-estate agent who tried to get a nativity scene placed alongside a “holiday tree” and a menorah in the state Capitol rotunda has filed a lawsuit, contending his free-speech rights were violated.

The lawsuit, filed the day after Christmas by Ron Wesselius of Tumwater, Thurston County, asks the U.S. District Court in Tacoma court to stop the state’s “unauthorized prohibition of religious expression” at the Capitol in Olympia, about 65 miles south of Seattle.

The lawsuit names Gov. Christine Gregoire and officials from the Department of General Administration as defendants. Wesselius is represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based organization that frequently takes up religious free-speech cases.

Attorney General Rob McKenna, who defends the governor and state agencies in court, said Wesselius’ request for a nativity scene gave little detail and came just three working days before Christmas.

“I think, ultimately, had this request come in a little earlier, everything might have happened differently,” McKenna spokeswoman Janelle Guthrie said Thursday.

State officials have placed an evergreen “holiday tree” in the ornate Capitol rotunda for several years. This year, the Capitol also installed a temporary menorah, the candelabrum used to mark the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.