In Texas, Nativity Scenes Are Illegally Popping Up in Front of a Couple Courthouses

There’s a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn in Athens, Texas and the Freedom From Religion Foundation says 1) it must be taken down or 2) their own banner must be put up alongside it.

Neither is acceptable to the locals — as if that matters — and last weekend, they staged a rally in support of Jesus:

Nathan Lorick, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Malakoff and one of the organizers of Saturday’s rally in Athens, said: “We are humbled at the turnout of the crowd.”

“We believe that God led us to do this and so we knew he was up to something great,” he told Fox News & Commentary.

“This message is resonating in the hearts of people all over the country. This was a real statement to the nation that Christians are tired of the persecution and suppression.”

The overwhelmingly Christian community seems to share the pastor’s sentiment.

“So now they’re trying to take Baby Jesus,” said resident Tracie Lynda. “What is so offensive about a baby in a manger? If it does not mean anything to you, why does it offend you?”

It’s hard to take seriously the cries of persecution when damn near every elected official in this country — and damn near every single president we’ve ever had — have said they worship Jesus.

Anyway. the FFRF has already responded to the Attorney General in Texas (who has pledged his support for the Christians), but for now, the nativity scene in Athens is still up.

Meanwhile, with far less publicity and no complaints so far, the Van Zandt County Courthouse in Canton, Texas is doing exactly the same thing:

The FFRF has been notified of that display, too.

This is why it’s so important for atheists to speak up and speak out. We may not have the numbers to stage a 5,000 person rally for a local church/state violation, but the Constitution is on our side. If some Christians hellbent on forcing their faith down everyone else’s throats want to bring on a lawsuit, let them. They’re going to lose.

We need people courageous enough to be plaintiffs when violations like these occur. At the very least, we need to make sure people are aware of the violations so they can notify the groups who can do something about it.

(via Rail Bender)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Pete084

    Quite honestly I think trying to ban nativity scenes is going a little too far, it’s not as if it’s affecting governance or anything.  Allow the religious their little foibles, but draw the line at religion in local government decision making, a nativity scene isn’t exactly doing that…. is it!

    • Anonymous

      The Master:
      My masterpiece, Doctor. A living TARDIS, strong enough to hold the paradox in place, allowing the past and the future to collide in infinite majesty.

    • bobby

      You must be joking. That’s EXACTLY what it’s doing.

    • Tom

      The problem is that it isn’t acceptable to the local populace for an atheist banner to be put into place.  Ergo, the state is endorsing Christianity.  That is unconstitutional.

      I am quite sure the populace would be up in arms if another religion was being promoted.

      • Cobwebs

        I think that’s what exhausts me most about these people:  They seem completely blind to the fact that the whole “separation of church and state” thing protects THEM too.  It ensures that they don’t wind up oppressed by an official religion which doesn’t happen to match theirs.

        • http://twitter.com/Goodson Goodson

          The loudest one’s aren’t worried about their version of Christianity being protected because they usually think (with lots of cognitive dissonance) that everyone except for those atheists actually believes the exact same things they do. They’ve been spoiled by the separation of church and state and don’t have the historical memory of purges and crusades against non state approved factions.

          • Kevin mays

            Goodson says it how it is.

      • http://twitter.com/Goodson Goodson

        This.  Having agreed though we need to be careful about this one. I’m not sure it’s the battle to pick. The problem is that none of us really care to have our own “display” beside the manger because we don’t have anything really to display. It’s almost as if we have to wait on another religion to try to put up a display and fail. Of course there is always the spaghetti monster.

    • http://twitter.com/WCLPeter Rob U

      it’s not as if it’s affecting governance or anything.

      Public lands are owned by everyone, not just Christians.  As stated (okay, I’ve paraphrased it) in the US Constitution the State, and its agents, have no business endorsing one particular faith over another.  If a Nativity is going to go up on public lands then the State must allow any and all other forms of Religious expression on public lands in order to remain neutral and avoid the appearance of endorsing one Religion over another.

      Unfortunately many State Agents will utilize public resources to keep the Nativity as the ONLY display possible on public lands, land owned by all citizens (even the non-Christian ones), and be in violation of their very own laws; often the courts must force them to obey the law after an obscene amount of precious public funds have been wasted in defence of the indefensible.

      No one is saying that the Nativity has to be taken down only that its display on public lands owned by all citizens, which again includes non-Christians, is not the right place for it.  There are plenty of church lands available, owned by Christians, for the display of the Nativity.

      This whole mess affects governance because State Agents are wasting public resources in an effort to have their own personal Religious views take precedence when, legally, they have no business doing so.  Honestly, its not that hard really.  Religion and the State don’t mix, shouldn’t mix, and must never mix because its the only way to ensure the Religious Freedom as guaranteed in the Constitution.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

    … and every single president we’ve ever had — have said they worship Jesus.

    Except for Jefferson. ;)

    • alphabetsoupofsomething

      And George Washington, who was a deist. John Adams and James Madison may have been deists too.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think Lincoln was a Jesus worshiper either.

    • Hemant

      Sorry. I knew that and totally missed it.  I’ve fixed the post to reflect the deists.

    • Guest

      Well, he didn’t worship Jesus, but he certainly did admire him almost to that point  – enough to put together and publish a miracles-removed version of his teachings into his own version of a “Bible”.  The result being, in my humble opinion, that a Unitarian deist acted more Christian than the blindly worshiping Bible-bashers we see this day.  Delicious.

    • http://www.facebook.com/wcwalker1 William C. Walker

      Except for Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison,  Monroe, John Quincy Adams &, some historians say, Andrew Jackson.

    • http://www.facebook.com/wcwalker1 William C. Walker

      (They were Deists – not Xians.  They saw no divinity in the late J.C. )

  • Xeon2000

    I’m all for a pluralistic society, but why not put a nativity scene up on the church lawn? That’s legal and allows for plenty of diversity. Instead, Christians want a privileged showcase to display their religion–and only their religion. They want to seize courthouse property to further advertise their religion, they want to seize government resources to plaster their message on license plates, they want to stamp their religion on our currency, our motto, our history, our education. Their dominionism won’t stop until their Borg-like tendencies have converted everyone.

    • Glendaday42

      We are supposed to love one another & not to judge one another. But are judging  christians.  May God forgive you, because i have.

  • Anonymous

    honestly, eff a nativity scene. Let’s talk about Texas and the death penalty. That’s much more egregious than a damn nativity scene, excuse my french…

  • EJC

    Texas. It really does seem that it is always Texas. And here is the rub; Texans are the ones who always scream the loudest ’bout following them durn laws, and how their state is the most lawsiest and most ballsiest when it comes to enforcin’ them laws….Except when those laws tell them to keep their myths to themselves, then it is all about defying them for a “greater good”.

    Fuck Texas. Give it back to Mexico, seal the borders and let them implode.

    This just gets into my craw and festers.

    How dare they break the law with seeming impunity.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s time for Christians to insist on having their baby Jesi on private grounds– in this way they don’t have to worry about sharing their religious symbols with competing points of view. Problem solved! 

    The December 25th “birthday” for Jesus was decided on more 300 years after his purported death… and it has nothing to do with anything in the bible (which seems to suggest a spring birth.) 

    A baby Jesus on public grounds makes it appear that the December 25th birth date is historical rather than made up long after the fact.  Manger scenes on courthouse grounds seem unnecessarily provocative at a time of year when Christians wish to imagine themselves as charitable and inclusive.  One wonders what they think they are achieving? (Are they unfamiliar with the biblical passage about praying in the closet?) 

    Until the Christians encourage their spokespeople to keep their religious paraphernalia in the appropriate places, I hope lots of other viewpoints ask for the same privileges Christians demand for themselves. I rather like the the FFRF’s alternative manger scene as well as festive flying spaghetti monsters. I’m into Christmas trees (pagan in origin) and lights and candy canes too. It’s festive and fun!     

  • Charles Black

    If people want to know why atheists oppose government merging with religion then one word: Iran.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    5,000 Texans came out to support the further establishment of a state-run religion. If they get their way, that same 5,000 will be very unhappy with the result. They’ll be showing up at the courthouse again but in smaller factions, protesting one government-mandated dogma instead of some other government-mandated dogma.

    But by then it will be too late for protests. The Constitution, that dusty old paper they never understood but always resented, will have been taken out of the National Archives and ceremoniously burned. With the authority of the Almighty now solidly behind them, the well-manned and well-armed Department of True Religion will simply order them to disperse or be rounded up and sent to “faith rehabilitation” camps.

    What a beautiful “Christian Nation” it will be.

  • theLarch

    with a light up sign saying “God bless America” all one has to do is cover/delight the “b” to give these people a taste of their own medicine. No vandalism required if it could be done without actually damaging the display. 

    • Kevin mays

      Why I should of went over there and done just that.

  • EJC

    What seems to me that needs to be done is this:

    A citizens group needs to go to the nativity scenes on public land and physically remove them. If and when the “police” show up, a citizen’s group needs to be there with video cameras and every monitoring resource available. When the police try to arrest the people taking down the nativity, citizen arrests need to be made to the police.

    Make it a huge fucking deal. The police are enforcing illegal laws, which mean they would be assaulting those enforcing the law (the citizens taking down the nativity).

    Make it a HUGE shitstorm. Citizen arrest the cops. Make it such that the courts and federal marshals have no choice but to step in. I guarantee this would bring this illegal activity to an end. Cops would be arrested by citizens more informed of the law than they, and the lawsuits would take money from the state or munis.

    Who could organize it? This is not written in jest. Make it happen!

    • Keldrath

       have you even bothered to think about how exactly citizens are going to arrest the POLICE?

      • EJC

        I am not saying it would go peacefully, but legally, if a police officer tries to arrest someone on trumped up or false “law” the officer is guilty of false arrest and assault. Legally, a citizen’s arrest could be issued. What would happen would be a huge shitstorm and chaos, but it would truly show these fuckers we can push back, legally.

      • Kevin mays

        I agree and they would find a way to turn it around on them. Assaulting an officer maybe? It would be a mess and just cause bad publicity

  • Anonymous

    The constitution is the supreme law of the land. No one is above the law.
    Somebody ought to tell that to these folks who thump their chests and call themselves proud Americans.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Why do they hate America?

    • http://www.facebook.com/wcwalker1 William C. Walker

      Why do these Texans hate our CONSTITUTION ?

  • Likerainonrocks

    News like this always gives my stomach an unhappy flip-flop.  I’m not even going to focus on the various levels of wrong. I’ll simply state, that it is quite a pity that they can show up in force for something like this, and yet not put that effort towards improving the world around them for the better. If every one of these people had simply volunteered that day for a real cause… *sigh*ahh it makes me a bit sad for humanity. I don’t even know if I want to dwell on it. 

  • Newavocation

    Rally??? Looks more like a lynch mob looking for an atheist.

    • Kevin mays

      Agreed

  • Tikab1

    keep state and church separate and respect the constitution.

  • Servant of Jesus

    I simply don’t understand why atheists insist on interpreting the fact that a higher God LOVES them as “offensive”. Come on lads, use logic!


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