A Texas County Will Etch a Christian Cross Into Its Seal

There doesn’t appear to be a high-res version of the Travis County, Texas seal anywhere online. Just small images like this one:

I’ve been staring at that picture and others like it for about 20 minutes now… because, supposedly, there’s a cross in the sky. I don’t see it in any of the images online. But it’s there, the people say.

Which is why they got angry when a larger version of the seal was created for the county’s Hall of Government (outside the court’s new meeting room) and they noticed the cross was missing.

Enlarged Travis County Seal (Laura Skelding – American-Statesman)

So the commissioners just voted to etch it back into all the new, large versions of the seal:

Judge Sam Biscoe originally decided to take the cross off artwork of the seal in the court’s new meeting room and the room’s lobby after it became distorted in an enlarged version of the seal that the court reviewed in May.

Biscoe said the commissioners court Tuesday considered putting the cross back on after some county employees raised questions to Biscoe about its removal.

“I wasn’t going out of my way to keep it secret, and I wasn’t going out of my way to make it public,” Biscoe said. “So I said let’s have the court address it squarely.”

On Tuesday, following a closed session, they voted 4-1 to keep the cross.

At least one of the commissioners had the good sense to say that a cross has no business being on the seal:

“I think that this presents us with an opportunity to update our seal to something that’s more in keeping up with the changing population and demographic in our county,” Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, the lone dissenter, said.

“In 2012, to … put in an implicit preference for Christianity is inappropriate.”

It’s absolutely inappropriate. And no doubt they’ll get at least the threat of a lawsuit. It’s surprising, in part, because the city of Austin makes up a large part of the county. And I always heard Austin was something of an anti-Texas.

Think it’s petty? Think it’s not worth caring about? I agree that it’s not the most egregious church/state violation we’ve ever seen. But if we let this pass without comment, you’ll start seeing other counties put crosses in their seals because we’re not raising a fuss over it. They’ll say, “You didn’t care when it happened in Travis County, so why do you care now?” And they would be right.

We have to nip these things in the bud before they become larger problems. That means fighting battles that we might otherwise ignore but can’t because Christians love to take advantage of the situation when they think no one else is looking.

(Thanks to Keith for the link!)

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.

  • cipher

    I wouldn’t bother. It isn’t America; it’s Texas. Waste of resources.

    • AtheistColby

       Please do fight against it. Some of us have to live here.

    • Rwlawoffice

      I am proud to be a Texan. Small government, no income taxes, no unions, religious population that care about each other, great job creation even in this Obama bad economy . Not heaven but damn close to it.

      • cipher

        Oh, naturally Obama’s the enemy. There’s a shocker.

        You’re an utter waste of space. Don’t address me again. I wouldn’t waste my time with you.

        • Rwlawoffice

          You have proven to be quite the lightweight when it comes to these discussions. There will be no need to address you again.

          • Piet

            At least cipher understands reality, that is more than we can say about you.

      • Edmond

        Read: Little regulation, voiceless migrant working class, insular and xenophobic communities, our economy is great but let me complain that it isn’t.  Not heaven, but still bad news for anyone who doesn’t prefer a church-soaked government.

        Why o why didn’t we let Texas go when we had the chance?

        • amycas

           Exactly. Texas is not heaven, not anywhere close. Year “right to work” state my ass. I hate that euphemism. You have  a right to work until your employer decides to fire you for no reason. Then you’re just sol and nobody cares.

      • TnkAgn

         Jobs created at min. wage and under 40 hours/week does not help the economy that “W” drove into the ditch. Take your Lone Star trolling to Waco, or Odessa, or wherever the hell.

      • pagansister

         There are many states that don’t have an income tax, FL being one.  As for a religious population being an advantage?  Not so sure.

      • B_R_Deadite99

         “Religious population that cares about each other..”

        Unless you’re gay, or atheist, or in some parts, not white.

        I’m a Texan who has the misfortune of loving Texas while loathing most of the people in it.

        • amycas

          I’m a Texan who wants to leave as soon as she gets a chance. The new restrictive abortion laws, the fight against Planned Parenthood, the god-soaked politics, the anti-lgbt bigotry. It’s become too much for me.

          • B_R_Deadite99

             The creationism is what pisses me off the most. By Cthulhu, how I hate and despise those wretched, mindless morons.

      • amycas

         I’m a Texan, and I’m not proud of it. The crazy here is staggering. My partner and I plan to move as soon as possible.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Born and raised there…Couldn’t get out fast enough. There isn’t a single good thing about the place unless you have the typical right wing mindset of “Fuck you, I’ve got mine” and Jesus. 

      Well, except for Austin. 

      • cipher

         So I’m told. Look at the previous comment – Exhibit A.

        I’d like to airlift out all the liberals – shouldn’t be more than a planeload or two – then give it back to Mexico. I’m told they still regard it as having been taken from them illegally. The only condition would be that they’d have to take all of the fundies – including Dubya.

        • amycas

           There are quite a few liberals, but not enough to make a dent in the religious right’s stranglehold of the place. Please do airlift us out.

      • 3lemenope

        And the Dallas County DA, Craig Watkins, is a very interesting fellow. So far as I know, the only DA in the US to actively work with (as opposed to against) the Innocence Project in making sure the people on death row are actually (not simply legally) guilty. Both Ann Richards and Ron Paul are interesting pols that hail from the state, not to mention LBJ.

        I’m just saying I wouldn’t write the whole place off. Not to mention, as I pointed out below, it’s about to become a blue state anyway, just through simple demographics.

      • Fifth gen texan

        Guess I’m older than you. I was born and raised here, and remember when every election was sure to go to the democrats. I admit there are some unpleasant trends here, but I’m not conceding my home to the backward asses who have temporarily taken over. As someone already alluded, the Hispanic population is growing rapidly here and generally votes left. Until then, I will enjoy hiking along the creeks of the hill country, backpacking in big bend, swimming in the springs, fishing the bays, and generally enjoying the state in spite of, for example, Rwlawoffice.

        • machintelligence

          But those were Southern Democrats. When the Democrats embraced the civil rights movement, they all morphed into Republicans.

          • Fifth gen texan

             not all of them. Fully half my family lives in Texas and votes left.

  • A3Kr0n

    Yes, nip it in the bud!
     http://youtu.be/de_P2aUZJyA

  • Ronlawhouston

    Austin is about as anti-Texas as you can get.  The problem is that counties in Texas tend to be large.  Austin is liberal but it is surrounded by some of the most conservative parts of Texas.  So, Travis county is a mix.  It’s the same with Houston.  We have a gay mayor but the surrounding county (Harris) is conservative because it is very large.  The interesting exception?   Dallas county.  It is small (much smaller than the city) and very liberal. 

    Anyway, so much for Texas politics 101.  We’re not as backwards as you might think.

    • cipher

       We have a gay mayor

      Really? And no one’s shot her?

      • Alex

        Ouch. Careful.

  • TnkAgn

    I’m with cipher. The sooner that The Christian Republic of Texass secedes, the better for America. 

    • 3lemenope

      If demographic and accompanying political trends continue apace, probably by 2020 (and almost certainly by 2028) Texas will be a solidly Democrat controlled state. Just throwing that out there. It’s like when people on the Left get fed up with official Catholic positions and have to be constantly reminded that despite those official statements, the Catholic laity is one of the most liberal voting blocs in the US, even on sexuality and sexual orientation matters.

      • cipher

         Oh, we haven’t got that much time left as a species!

        And if does happen, it’ll only be because Jesus returned and Raptured them all the hell out of there.

      • amycas

         For the sake of those of us (me included) who live there, I hope you’re right.

  • Savoy47

    Going after these small infractions is equivalent to the way New York City went after crime using the broken windows theory.

    Under the broken windows theory, an ordered and clean environment – one which is maintained – sends the signal that the area is monitored and that criminal behavior will not be tolerated. Conversely, a disordered environment – one which is not maintained (broken windows, graffiti,excessive litter) – sends the signal that the area is not monitored and that one can engage in criminal behavior with little risk of detection.

  • CoboWowbo

    I found the cross…

    • J3434

      Per this article, that building is the University of Texas tower (
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Building_(University_of_Texas_at_Austin) ), which does not have cross atop it. Other versions of the seal on the internet show more clearly that what appears as a cross in that image is probably JPEG artifacting. It might be worth Hemant’s time, however, to investigate the infiltration of religious iconography into imaging standards.

    • A3Kr0n

       They’re a lot more cunning than that. I found the real cross! BTW: Why do they have two phallus symbols flying toward each other?
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/thesannio/7819069232/in/photostream

      • pagansister

         Thanks for the marker pointing out the cross on the picture.  It is well hidden as the support for the scale “of justice” I suppose.   If Austin is as liberal as some folks here say, hopefully they will make a point of letting their leader(s) know they object to this.   Have a cousin who lives there, is very liberal—am sure he isn’t pleased.   As for the 2 phallus symbols?  No cross, but sex symbols are OK?  Hey, the Washington Monument is certainly a large part of the landscape in DC. 

  • B_R_Deadite99

    The cross is pure white, like the skin of Jesus, and thus is not visible in the seal.

  • Waltz707

    Where is this? I’ma proud, Atheist of texas, and many people in austin will not allow this to happen!

  • One Man Damned

    Sometimes I wonder how things in Texas would be different if this had actually been built:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconducting_Super_Collider

    What if discoveries like those from CERN were being made in Texas instead?  In the intervening 20 years, would Texas have become a scientific powerhouse, would it have made it more difficult for ignorance to become preferred over rationality in the Lone Star State? 

    I wonder…

  • Anonymous Atheist

    Here is a detailed description of the Travis County, TX seal, written 6 years ago, with no mention of a cross anywhere. I remain baffled as to the supposed cross.
    http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/us-tx-tv.html

    ” The seal was was replaced in 1975 by a design created by County Treasurer Johnny
    Crow. The new seal symbolizes the governmental, educational, industrial,
    military, farming, and recreational factors that represent the life and economy
    of the citizenry of the county. Within a wreath of oak and pecan branches, the
    seal depicts a Lone Star over the State Capitol Building, the University of
    Texas Tower and the City of Austin skyline. Two vapor-trailing fighter jets fly
    over the cityscape. In the foreground are a white-tailed deer leaping over a
    cactus, a farmer plowing the fields, and a sailboat on a lake. The scales of
    justice also appear, symbolizing the Travis County and District Court systems.
    At the base of the seal is the date of the county’s creation, 1839. A ring
    around the seal bears the inscriptions “County of Travis” and “State of
    Texas.” “


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