The 2012 War on Christmas Has Begun: A Texas County Rejects Atheist Group’s Holiday Banner

Last year, Henderson County officials (in Texas) put a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn.

Believing that to be unconstitutional, the Freedom From Religion Foundation requested that one of their displays join the nativity scene — or county officials could remove the Nativity Scene altogether. There was a huge rally in which about 5,000 local Christians showed up in support of Jesus because he was apparently under attack from those damned atheists:

County officials eventually put the FFRF’s banner up… for a few minutes. Then they took it back down. It was chaos all around.

FFRF is taking a much more proactive approach this time around. Earlier this year, they submitted a formal request to put up this banner on the courthouse lawn:

This week, Henderson County officials rejected their application:

“We did not feel that the banner was consistent with the theme of Christmas and our decorations that we have enjoyed for many years,” says Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders.

Henderson County Officials say none of their holiday decorations consist of banners or anything with words on it.

“We did take into consideration what type of decoration, or display, they had to offer. We did ask them questions about if they had alternative Christmas decorations or displays and the response we got was ‘no’,” says Henderson County Attorney Clint Davis.

In a matter of weeks, the Nativity scene display will sit on the courthouse lawn where pumpkins and hay bales are now. The other three corners of the courthouse lawn will adorn secular decor, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation says Henderson County is still violating the constitution.

“When you look at our overall objective here, which is to make our courthouse square appealing, attractive, inviting to the public… it was Judge Sanders’ opinion at the end of that process and at the end of our evaluation… that the banner they had offered did not accomplish this goal,” says Davis.

So, let’s recap: This, to Henderson County officials, is perfectly acceptable, appealing, and inviting to all:

FFRF isn’t buying that:

Henderson County is not a ‘Christian county,’ Athens is not a ‘Christian town,’ Texas is not a ‘Christian state’ and the United States is not a ‘Christian nation.’ Majority does not rule over matters of personal conscience. A county government should not be taking sides in religion, or promoting or endorsing Christianity over other religions, or religion over nonreligion,“ Gaylor added.

“When the county hosts at its seat of government a manger scene proclaiming the legendary birth of Jesus as the messiah, it is unlawfully placing government behind Christianity, at the expense of non-Christians and nonbelievers,” she added.

FFRF is currently weighing their legal options. I hope they file a lawsuit. And I hope other non-Christian religious groups offer their own banners and displays for the courthouse lawn. It may not be bad PR for local officials to deny the atheists their space — but once they start rejecting Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, and Scientology displays, maybe people will start paying attention to the whole notion of church/state separation.

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.

  • DougI

    How about get some cheerleaders to hold it at a football game?  I’m sure all of Texas would support that and not declare their hypocrisy.

    I so hope FFRF sues.  They need to start getting some monetary damages so these theocrats don’t feel so eager to usurp our Republic.

  • MargueriteF

    “We did not feel that the banner was consistent with the theme of Christmas and our decorations that we have enjoyed for many years.”

    *Blinks* Isn’t that the POINT??

  • Javier

    It’s good to know the faith of Christians in Texas is so weak that they need their beliefs reinforced by “big government.”

  • GeekGoddess

    I’ve been through Henderson. It’s one of those tiny east Texas towns, butting up against Louisiana, that are typical of rural towns everywhere. Undereducated bumpkins.

  • T MacCabe

    This would have been better:

    At this Season of the Winter Solstice,
    There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.
    There is only our natural world. – Amen.

    The final phrase about hardening hearts and enslaving is too confrontational and is inconsistent with celebrating together.  Are we seeking to be recognized and accepted, or to find excuses for lawsuits.

  • Jake

    Good for Henderson County. It seems they gave careful consideration to the FFRF’s sign and decided (correctly) that it is only meant to insult religious believers and thus is inappropriate. It sounds like had they presented something that was not intentionally insulting, and went along with the holiday theme, it would have been allowed. I seriously doubt they lack the creativity to come up with something that would still present a secular message while not giving a middle finger to religious believers. Also, it looks like the courthouse will already have three locations with secular decor. And from what I have seen from the SCOTUS (despite their horribly inconsistent nature in religious matters) they seem to allow nativity scenes when placed among other secular decorations. Simply repeating “its unconstitutional” over and over again is a little disingenuous. These situations not just black or white.

  • skinnercitycyclist

     Jake, explain how a display asserting “there is no god” is insulting, but a display asserting “there is a god” is not.

  • C Peterson

    We did not feel that the banner was consistent with the theme of Christmas and our decorations that we have enjoyed for many years.

    So not only are the county officials openly contemptuous of the Constitution, but apparently they are mentally retarded as well. I guess this would have to be the response to a Hanukkah display as well? Amazing!

  • C Peterson

    I agree a less confrontational message that simply celebrated the solstice would be a better choice. Or a purely confrontational one that advocated secularism. I’ve never liked this particular message that conflates the solstice (something validly celebrated) with secularism (a political statement).

    Nevertheless, by placing themselves in the position of making value judgments on what decorations they will or will not allow, the county officials put themselves at significant legal jeopardy.

  • T MacCabe

    The two are equally insulting, but calling their faith superstition and pointing out that it hardens hearts and enslaves takes it a step farther. Were you targeted for insult by their display? The FFRF display targeted them.

  • Rob Follett 47%

    The sign should have put more emphasis on the solstice, which is the real reason for the season anyway.  Less emphasis on bashing their god probably would have gotten a more favorable response.  If you want to get a rise, it’s easy enough to point out that all of their xmas traditions and symbols are pagan anyway.

  • T MacCabe

     Well said!

  • Achron Timeless

    So your entire argument is “The truth hurts, and we must protect them from the truth”? That’s… rather juvenile level reasoning if I have to say so.

  • Bryan

     I agree that the message could have been a little less confrontational (I think phrases like “enslaving minds” certainly reinforces the “angry atheists” trope and makes more enemies than friends), but the message still stands. Whether there’s one nativity scene and three secular displays or half a nativity scene and two hundred secular displays, it’s still an endorsement of one religion over all others.

    How would you feel if it was an Islamic display (showing my ignorance here…can’t think of an Islamic equivalent to a nativity scene) on the courthouse lawn instead?

  • Jake

     Denying this sign is not a sign of contempt for the Constitution. Nor is it a sign of mental retardation. Just because you have a chip on your shoulder towards religion does not mean that decor intentionally meant to insult religious believers should be allowed. The article clearly states there is already secular decor to go along with it as well.

    And how do you know that they would give the same response to a Hanukkah display? Has anyone tried to display one yet? A nativity scene and a menorah are meant to celebrate the holidays (even if you don’t agree with them). They are not meant to denigrate others, unlike the FFRF’s banner.

  • C Peterson

    Indeed, I was targeted for insult by their display! I feel disenfranchised by the open support for a religious message by a governmental entity. For me, that is a deep insult, indeed.

    The county is not in a very strong position attempting to decide (based on the world views of its officials) just what does or does not constitute an insult to somebody. Neutrality is only possible if they except all messages, or none at all.

  • jdm8

    I think a secular sign should go up, but only the positive portion, the first two thirds. The last sentence really isn’t necessary. The last sentence might be arguably equivalent to Christians posting a sign including a message saying atheists are fools.

    But that is all really a distraction. There is no need for prominent government land to post any group’s religious message at all, the Nativity can be hosted on anyone’s front lawn, including the dozens of churches that probably exist in Henderson County.

  • Jake

     I would have no problem with an Islamic display provided it was meant to celebrate the holidays (in some manner), and not at the expense of others as is the case with the FFRF’s display. And again, the SCOTUS has ruled before that nativity scenes, when presented with other secular displays (as seems to be the case here), are not automatically unconstitutional.

  • C Peterson

    The contempt for the Constitution is in having the Christian display in the first place.

    The evidence of mental retardation is in denying a non-Christmas holiday display on grounds that it’s inconsistent with the theme of Christmas.

    The stated purpose of the banner is to celebrate the solstice. It isn’t the business of the county to pass judgment on that message. They must accept all messages, or none at all. This is a very well supported legal view. Every city that has attempted to limit the religious or non-religious messages in holiday displays has lost that battle in court.

  • Jake

    Claiming to be insulted by a nativity display is no different than when Christians claim to be insulted when a store employee greets them with “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.

    You are merely looking for a reason to be offended.

  • C Peterson

    Not at all. I think that there little that is more insulting to an American citizen than having their rights openly assaulted in this way. It isn’t a trivial thing.

    The idea of a “war on Christmas” is pretty absurd. Very real, however, is the openly declared Christian war on the First Amendment.

  • Jake

    The stated purpose of the banner is to celebrate the solstice.

    Please enlighten us on how this part of the banner celebrates the solstice:

    Religion is but myth & superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

    Your bias is showing.

  • Jake

     The only assault on civil rights is on gay marriage.

    The assault on the first amendment is only in your mind and is just as absurd as the “War on Christmas”.

  • chicago dyke, Blonde

    i toyed with pagan belief for a while, and i really think that’s the one to challenge these in court, in terms of the faith we want to represent the ‘other’ in cases like these, when munis claim they aren’t endorsing a specific religion. 

    xtians just hate wiccans and pagans. esp queer and feminist ones, who make up a large percentage of wiccan/pagan believers. but wiccans and pagans can go toe to toe, historically, logically, and all the rest, when it comes to making claims about superstition and belief that the state “must” respect. want to get rid of a xtian display on your courthouse? just tell them if they have one with jeebus, they have to allow one with the goddess/god of winter as well. shuts em up every time. 

  • C Peterson

    It emphasizes the view of those celebrating the solstice as a purely secular holiday based on physical principles. It describes why the secular nature of the celebration is seen as important. It is central to the philosophy of those placing the sign that religion is damaging.

    Would you consider it an insult to Hindus if there were an Islamic display that said “There is only one God, and he is Allah”? That’s an assertive statement which is completely at odds with Hindu dogma. It’s no different from an assertive secular statement that simply happens to be at odds with Christian dogma.

    Sorry, the only bias here is on the part of the county, making assumptions about the motive of messages.

  • chicago dyke, Blonde

    give me a break. what “right” of yours is being assaulted? your “right” to silence people who point out that your belief in a sky fairy is stupid? your right not to be reminded that jeebus was born on a… pagan holiday adopted by the early church so it would gain in popularity? your “right” not to have your fee-fees and weak sauce faith challenged and hurt?

    grow up, already. the constitution is clear. if pagans and muslims were the majority religions in this country, maybe then you’d have something to complain about. but they aren’t, and you don’t. seriously, your faith is weak, lame and sad. 

    any real Christian walking ‘in the footsteps of Jesus” would be right here, at this blog, standing up for the rights and freedoms of people like me, and all the rest of us in the minority. your martyrdom crap is so very tiresome.

  • Achron Timeless

    Oddly, a city I used to live in found a way around that. There was a very small park setup in a town square style area as the focal point. Aside from the very ornate fountain, there were statues of goddesses and muses around the park. So, that’s where they set up the nativity scene since the statues could be argued to be other religious displays. The strange thing is most the residents didn’t seem to know what the statues were of so the whole thing kinda went over their heads.

  • Jake

     I am sorry, but in the world I live in (reality) making the claim that religion only serves to enslave and harden one’s heart is no where close to celebrating anything other than hatred.

  • PBR Streetgang

    What Jake and so many other Christians refuse to accept is that government, whether it’s local, state, or federal, has absolutely no business whatsoever  endorsing, displaying, supporting, participating in, or practicing religion in any way shape or form.  And what the fuck do you think is happening when government officials put up religious displays on government property?  All atheists want is for public government employees to keep their religious beliefs to themselves and practice their superstitious fairy tale bullshit ON THEIR OWN TIME AND ON THEIR OWN PROPERTY.

  • C Peterson

    It is a statement of hatred of religion perhaps, but certainly not of hatred directed towards any person. As such, I fail to see the problem.

  • C Peterson

    Sorry… how does this relate to anything I said?

  • Coyotenose

    What really sticks out for me for some reason is their claim that this Nativity display is attractive, appealing, and inviting. NO 3-D Nativity is any of those things. They are inherently tacky, and usually a little creepy, like almost all cheap lawn statuary.

    You know what I think of when I see lawn statues? That one Doctor Who episode where if you blink while watching one, it will run up and grab you and make you disappear forever.

  • chicago dyke, Blonde

     having their rights openly assaulted in this way

    your rights are not being assaulted, honey. get over the martyr thing, already. 

  • Coyotenose

     There is no equivalence between government endorsement of a religion and private acknowledgement of all religions. You are merely looking for a reason to argue, and not finding one.

  • Coyotenose

     I think that was just a response to the wrong comment.

  • Coyotenose

    All Constitutional law and jurisprudence disagrees with you.

  • chicago dyke, Blonde


    there are starving children, homeless people, schools without textbooks, people in desperate need of health care, and budgets for all that are being slashed all over the country. why is any muni or county spending our taxdollars- ANYTHING AT ALL on a religious/holiday display, in times like these???

    that’s what makes me crazy. 

  • Paul

    Attacking the Christmas origination story just wastes political capital. From our point of view it’s a story, just like Santa Clause, and one that no longer defines the winter holidays. We’re not condemning Santa are we and plenty of people believe in him =)

    This aethist (small ‘a’) enjoys the story, the tradition and the event known as Christmas. It’s already pretty secular and, from my point of view, the nativity scene should be preserved as a traditional element of Christmas; whether or not it is attached to a religion and that people believe it.

    Separating religion from the state is a good goal. Removing all historical trace of religion from society… not so much. We want the religious to treat their history less as gospel and more as stories, and we should do the same. 

  • C Peterson

    I take my First Amendment right to not have the government endorse religion very seriously. And that right is assaulted every time the government does just that… as in this case.

    I’m not going to “get over” that, or turn the other cheek and let a bunch of petty bureaucrats run rough shod over the Constitution.

  • Coyotenose

     There is almost nothing that would count as a secular Christmas display outside of the sort of thing the FFRF wants displayed. Santa Claus is an explicitly Christian myth (bit of an oxymoron there). Yule logs, Christmas trees, mistletoe, holly, presents, pretty much everything is Christian or more often pagan. “Secular” would pretty much be “Happy Holidays” greeting cards and Frosty the Snowman.

  • Coyotenose

     The trouble there is that these moral Christians have absolutely no problem with passing the bill on to the taxpayer and blaming the mean ol’ athiests [sic]. They get reelected for intentionally impoverishing their citizenry.

  • phantomreader42

    Why is it okay for your cult to constantly insult, slander, libel, threaten, and discriminate against anyone who disagrees with you, but unacceptable for anyone else to insult you?

  • Jake

    Wow, finally someone who sees it from my point of view. We need more atheists like this! Visit my site

  • Jake

    Wow, what a cheery and peaceful “holiday” message from our side. Fu­cking horrible, I’m not surprised they rejected nor do I disagree with the rejection. Maybe if we all calmed down and tried to be positive during the one time of the year where everyone is a bit nicer, we would be more accepted. 

    This message makes us all look like litigious as­sholes.

  • T MacCabe

     Feeling insulted through exclusion is not the same as being targeted. True that having no displays is most constitutional, but that’s also drab. Can’t we allow people to join together in celebration, get into the spirit of the holidays and agree to disagree? The FFRF sign is not a traditional celebration of Solstice but a hijacking of it simply to make a point. How about a HumanLight sign or just a peace sign held up by the FSM? This demostration is not well executed and just makes us look like a-holes with nothing to rejoice in. 

  • T MacCabe

     So you would rather protest by attacking someone’s faith than by promoting our own goodness. Who’s juvenile?

  • GloomCookie613

    No, honey, it’s celebrating reality (a concept you don’t seem to get). Sorry if it hurts your feelings, but you’ll get over it one day when you grow up and stop reading fairy tales.

  • C Peterson

    Because by putting up displays like this, they seek to deflect attention away from  their governance failures in all the other areas you mention. A tried and true political method for as long as there has been politics. If you lack the skill and vision to fix real problems, pretend you are doing something constructive elsewhere.

  • C Peterson

    I think you are mistaking the source of the insult I feel. It isn’t the Christmas display itself, and it isn’t the exclusion of the FFRF display. The insult is in the disenfranchisement inherent in my First Amendment rights being openly violated.

    The FFRF does not want their sign displayed. That is not their first choice. The position of the organization is, quite correctly, that government has no business endorsing any religion. There should be no displays. The intent of the banner in this case is to emphasize that, to force the issue, to reveal the hypocrisy that is present. And it succeeds.

    Personally, I do not care in the slightest how somebody who doesn’t respect the First Amendment thinks I’m behaving. In my view, anybody who supports a religious display on public property is un-American, and their views have no value to me at all.

  • RobertoTheChi

    Your religion is filled with hate and encourages its members to not think for themselves.

  • T MacCabe

    Jake, funny how they all think you’re Christian. While we’re pointing at the haters, we should try not to be haters ourselves.

  • T MacCabe

     I understand and it pisses me off too. The campaign is designed to generate compliance or litigation, not to promote atheism. Perhaps the reference to celebrating Solstice threw me. The sign should have said:

    “Happy Holidays. This message presented via equal access to the public square. Government endorsement is not implied by this or any other holiday display. –”

  • Silo Mowbray

    Nice try. Go educate yourself on the Establishment clause, asshole.

  • Silo Mowbray

    Not putting up with bigotry is not intolerance or hatred. It’s calling people on their stupid shit. Wake the fuck up.

  • Jason Horton

    One day I’d like to see a Holiday banner that lists all the usual Christmas traditions and then explain the origin of them all. There are hardly any that are exclusively Christian. Apart from the name really.

  • Jake

    So if I wanted to put a banner saying “F­uck you, Silo, you co­cksucking do­uchebag” at Christmastime, they should allow it?

  • T MacCabe

     Should probably add a line to inquire within, on the chance that the irony won’t be lost on everyone.

  • Jake

     And what is my religion again? I don’t believe I have stated if I am, or am not, religious here. Assumptions like this make you look like a fool.

  • Jake

     And what cult is it that I belong to again?

  • Aaron

    You know, this would be a whole lot better if the sign didn’t attack people with religious beliefs.

    The manger scene doesn’t attack someone else’s beliefs, but rather, promotes ones own.

    Perhaps if a sign or something was made that had a positive message, the reception would be a whole lot better.

  • Drew M.

    Wait. Do you really think C Peterson is a Christian? 
    I initially thought you replied to the wrong person, but now I wonder if there is more than a simple misclick involved here.

  • Drew M.

    I think you meant “redundancy,” and not “oxymoron.”


  • kaydenpat

    Like “Happy Holidays from your friendly atheists”?

    I have a feeling that the Christians would still have a problem just because the sign was displayed by atheists.

  • Achron Timeless

    To pull the overtrodden stereotype of mental illness out for a moment, what you’re saying is that if my uncle suddenly gets hit on the head and believes he’s Napoleon  I’m just supposed to respect that?

    Telling him that he’s not even French, much less Napoleon, would be an attack on that belief, but it would also be the truth and for his benefit.

    So, when confronted by someone who talks about their imaginary friend, whom their not responsible for that imaginary friend’s actions, and in fact have to do everything it says because they’re afraid of it hurting them… well how exactly do you want me to react in that situation? 

    Fortunately only one classic joke about mental illness has it’s own series of contradicting books, or else I’d have to learn to say “morning general” in French so as not to hurt anyone’s wittle feewings.

  • Jake

     I would fully support a sign that said “Happy Holidays from your friendly atheists”!

  • jemzinthekop

    It isn’t a matter of insult.  When a secular nation/state taxes it’s citizens to pay for its operation it cannot show favour to one set of religious beliefs.  The only belief is no belief as government is a secular institution not a theistic one.  You want theism then move to Saudi Arabia and you can be free to watch a government of religion in action.

  • lericr

    Amazing how many people in this thread miss the point. It’s not that a “nicer” version of the banner would have a better chance of being accepted. It’s not that anyone wants the FFRF banner to be displayed on public property. The point is government cannot (1) endorse any particular religious view or (2) suppress any particular religious view. The choice to suppress the FFRF’s religious view while at the same time endorsing the christian view is a clear double violation. It is appropriate (though not necessary) to call the county’s decision stupid, because failing to recognize the irony of its decision is, indeed, stupid.

    While government that cannot suppress a religious view, there is no requirement that one particular religious group must express only those views that don’t insult another religion. The FFRF banner could be as offensive as one could imagine it being, and it still should get exposure if the government gives christianity exposure. Again, the FFRF is not seeking to get government endorsement of its views. If there were no creche on public property, you wouldn’t see the FFRF requesting the display of any banner on public property.

    Another possible tack: create hundreds of religious displays representing a diverse set of religious beliefs and insist that if they aren’t all given equal exposure on public property then none of them can be given exposure. Instead of banners, each should require as much space as the nativity scene.

  • Aaron

    Yes, they probably would. But at least at that point, it would be promoting ones own beliefs (the same thing Christians do) and would thus stand up in court. I have a feeling that if they took this one to court, they wouldn’t get anywhere due to the confrontational message.

  • phantomreader42

    Oh, so you’re saying people shouldn’t be allowed to hijack holidays for their own purposes? And can you explain WHY you only want this rule to apply to FFRF, and NOT to the displays for the holiday the christians stole? Oh, yeah, because you don’t really mean it, you’re just deesperately scrambling for any convenient excuse.

  • Bill Haines

    Yeah, something actually celebrating winter solstice…*BfkSWWX1HU-mL9jhhJIgdsnkqRWjonNVJgwL–FOlWjAFPEVyz4Y8SLMXRfLEJntkghpKYbpguUNaVzZlGzLoHmJU3sq/axialtiltcolorbig.png 

    …or simply reason… 

    …or a HumanLight banner… 

    …or more involved, a Knowledge Tree… 

    …or if they wanted to go just slightly confrontational, this… 

    …but what they did might as well have said, “Fuck you, stupid Judaeo-Christians!”  Of course it wouldn’t be accepted, and as far as I’m concerned, anyone who thinks it should’ve been just isn’t thinking clearly.

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  • Noelle

    I really like Christmas.

  • Moonbeam Eleven Crocket

    I love Jesus with 1% of my brain and all my heart because that’s what christianity is all about, mindless emotional BS. I would like to see all you religious nuts get down to Armageddon and kill each other. from jew to mormon to islam to hindu, please leave our planet

  • Bill Haines

    The point, as far as I’m concerned, is for a community of human beings to commonly celebrate a particular time of year while respecting diverse views of that time of year and practices regarding those views.  If that’s not the point, as far as you’re concerned, I don’t think we have much basis for discussion of this incident. ;)

    Government can’t legally endorse a particular religious view, but reasonably can and should guarantee public space where all citizens’ views can be expressed, religious and otherwise.  The problem here appears to be that agents of government in their official capacities decided to celebrate a particular religious view, using taxpayer funds at least to some extent, rather than simply providing for that public space.  

    A rational approach would be to point out that this is illegal, and that if county officials decide to set aside some public space specifically for seasonal observance, that space must be open to any such observance citizens wish to highlight using private funding.  

    Offering such a privately-funded seasonal observance, from a strictly secular view, can be a positive way to show how this can be done in keeping with the point of celebrating the time of year while respecting diverse views of it. Offering an observance also obviously deliberately intended to insult and offend the majority of citizens entirely misses the point, providing rhetorical ammunition to the worst elements of the religious community which they will use to spread even further bigotry against us who hold only secular views, and so would seem to be a pretty stupid idea.  

    If the goal is simply to force local government to keep to the letter of the law, why not just make formal complaint, and sue if not addressed satisfactorily?  If an additional goal is to promote greater acceptance of and respect for strictly secular views, why not also offer a positive message, demonstrating how the law can be followed without having to remove seasonal observances from public spaces?  What goals possibly could’ve been served by what was done in this case, other than riling up this community, and furthering the stereotype of atheists so unfortunately believed by the majority of Americans?

  • Bell3000

    I feel that rather than being confrontational people should be educated about Christmas.
    Copied from Atheism – “Beyond the idea that this is the day that people are supposed to be celebrating the birth of Jesus, there isn’t much else about it that Christianity has directly contributed. ”

  • PsiCop

    Re: “The manger scene doesn’t attack someone else’s beliefs, but rather, promotes ones own.”

    Actually, since Christianity asserts itself as an exclusive religion … one that everyone is to believe in, with all other religions as well as non-religion being “false” … then any public symbol of Christianity, including nativities with a baby Jesus in them, is by definition “attacking” other people’s beliefs.

    Now … if Christians were to dispense with the notion that theirs is “the One True Faith” of “the One True God” whom every last human being is required to worship, then they might be able promote their own religion without denigrating any others. But until they do that, it’s just not logically possible.

  • Jake

    So I guess Richard Dawkins, and pretty much every British atheist, is an “Uncle Tom atheist”? I’ll side with them thanks, you guys can keep your high blood pressure-induced constant anger and “us vs. them” mentality.

  • PsiCop

    Re: “Removing all historical trace of religion from society… not so much.”

    So you’re equating “removing a nativity from a courthouse lawn” with eradicating religion entirely from society? Really? How, exactly, does that work? Please explain how the two are equivalent. I’m dying to know.

    Religiofascists constantly whine that atheists are trying to abolish religion completely, but honestly, I’ve never seen it. I have yet to see the jackbooted thugs of the Atheist Militia storming into people’s homes to swipe crucifixes and Christmas trees. I’ve never seen them besiege churches and burn them down. I’ve never seen them invade bookstores and swipe all their Bibles. I’ve never seen them make “citizen arrests” of preachers for having delivered sermons.

    Nothing of the sort is happening. Not even close. Why are you suggesting that it is?

    There’s a fairly obvious alternative tactic that the good Christofascist folk of Henderson county could take, if they really wanted, and that would be for one of them to buy the property next door to the courthouse and put the nativity there. As long as it’s on private property, it can be there, and I don’t know any atheist who would say differently.

    Then again, I certainly don’t know all the atheists in the world. Obviously you know some that I’ve never heard of. Please, introduce me so I can find out what these militant atheists are up to. I honestly would like to know who they are.

  • Makai

    The truth hurts.

    It’d be like putting up a Thanksgiving Sign saying “If you’re so big that you can’t see your muscles past your fat, and you see someone whose bone structure is visible through their skin, maybe you should give thanks by passing your plate to them. Let’s try and bridge the gap, you lose a bit of weight, and they gain a bit of weight”

    While being a morally responsible sign by reminding people of the fact that being too skinny is just as bad as being too fat, you take away from the Holiday.

    The sign should have said something like “Happy Holidays, from the Freedom From Religion Foundation to you. Remember that giving good cheer gets you good cheer, and let’s celebrate the Holidays and work towards a bit of Peace on Earth from us to you.”

    Instead of putting something up that’s specifically going to start that retarded “War on Christmas” charade.

    That’s the difference from a step forward and taking steps back. You can’t get them to stop perpetuating the mythic war on Christmas if you’re already attacking their beliefs BEFORE HALLOWEEN AND THANKSGIVING have even started.

  • Achron Timeless

    Well, I have to ask you something. Do you so venomously support the rights of reducing the restrictions to own fully automatic weapons? I doubt it, because you probably aren’t someone who wants one or would benefit from other people having access to them.

    So, unless you have a vested interest in the position you’re taking, then you’re just flat out acting crazy. At least you’re getting the benefit of the doubt that you’re arguing in favor of your religion rather than being simply nuts. “If the shoe fits” and all that rot.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    It would be sad if you ever stopped.

    Happy Noelle.

  • Noelle

    It’s sentimental, I know, but I just really like it. ;)

  • Achron Timeless

    Wait, religion completely disappears and all the historical damage is undone just by removing nativity scenes? No wonder they fight so hard, they didn’t want us to find out their weakness! And all this time I’ve been using logical arguments. Wow.

    That’d be so much easier wouldn’t it? Hey Psi, think you could pop me into that particular fantasy world they’re throwing around? I think I could have fun there =)

    I’m sure we could set up some kind of travel agency for such a vacation.

  • lericr

    Again, missing the point. Even if I were to stipulate that a nativity scene simply passively promotes one’s beliefs and doesn’t attack anyone, the fact that the government is promoting that religion does, in fact, constitute a kind of attack. No atheist is attacking the christians for wanting to promote their religion. Of course they want to do that. AND THE CONSTITUTION PROTECTS SUCH EXPRESSION. But they must do it with private funds, or they must be willing to share government support with views that are non-christian, anti-christian, or anything in between. Saying the christians were nice and the atheists were mean completely misses the point. The atheist banner accurately reflects the group’s religious position. Saying “happy holidays” is not making a religious statement. Why don’t the christians just say “happy holidays”? No, the christians were allowed to make a religious statement, and a different religious statement was prohibited. That’s a constitutional violation, pure and simple. If the christians were to replace their creche with “happy holidays”, you might have a leg to stand on. Telling the atheists what their message should be is exactly the type of suppression the constitution is prohibiting.

  • lericr

    No, “happy holidays” is not an expression of one’s religious beliefs. You’re trying to suppress the actual religious belief: there is no god. If the atheist can only display comments that are non-religious, then the situation is no better than it was before. Why don’t the christians replace their religious imagery with “happy holidays”? Because they want to make a religious statement, not a generic statement. Insisting that one’s own religious statements be endorsed while simultaneously complaining about the expression of different religious statements is hypocritical (and unconstitutional).

  • PsiCop

    OK, I will ask a second time, hopefully I can get an answer this time:

    Precisely how is taking a nativity scene off a courthouse lawn, the same as “removing all historical trace of religion from society”? You haven’t explained the equivalence. All you did was complain about me. You’re free to do that, of course, but if you do, it still won’t get you or I any closer to an answer to that very simple question.

  • Achron Timeless

    Umm Psi… Wrong person. I was agreeing with you and making a joke. Check the names (and contents of posts). Common mistake.

  • RD

    What sort of wanker would get this upset about Christmas decorations?  I’m not a Christian or an American so I might be missing something but on the face of it this is ridiculous.   America is a  stupid country and this sort of thing proves it

  • Rick L Bell

    Total waste of time and money. Let the local morons have their silly manger scene. It just makes them look sillier.

  • roz77

    Ugh. Seriously. Why can’t FFRF just put up a sign that says “Happy Holidays from the FFRF!” I realize that what the county is doing may be unconstitutional, but FFRF is being needlessly dickish about their sign and it just makes them look childish.

  • T MacCabe

     This site is called the Friendly Atheist is it not, are you sure you belong here?

  • Danny

     And, the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill trying to defend the sheer stupidity and arrogance of their elected representatives.  Government, yes.  Religion, absolutely not!

  • T MacCabe

     Apparently religion isn’t the only thing that hardens hearts. Isn’t it enough to say we don’t believe? I’m not trying to protect anyone from the truth, just saying we don’t need to go out of our way to be insulting.  Perhaps I should speak for myself. Some of us can’t help it.

  • jakeisadouchetroll

    Are you just trolling dude? Seriously? British atheists uncle tom atheists? Cmon man..sheeesh. 

  • wmdkitty

    Oh, the Weeping Angels.

    So… am I the only one who gets a little nervous around statues? Just me?

  • WBFD125

    I demand equal space for a Pastafarian Display. All hail his Noodliness the FSM. R’amen!

  • jakeisadouchetroll

    I think erecting a big satanic display might do the trick.  I know satanists don’t really worship the devil and all, but I bet Henderson County would reconsider.

  • WBFD125

     So is yours. Please find me one contemporary mention of Jesus in any Roman records. How about mention of any Jews in Egyptian records? Both of those civilizations kept very good records even of unflattering things like rebellions, plagues and famines. You see there aren’t any because the bible is pure fiction.

  • cinghoa

    Dude, ease up. You might have some pent up hostility towards xtians, that is no reason to get so bent out of shape when a person makes a valid point. It’s not as if he said that xtians should have all they wish, just that the people that offered up the banner should have known that the good ol boys in Texass would reject such provocative language. 

  • jkdt

    Exactly!  I especially like the last bit about creating hundreds of religious banners.  

  • Bill

    India is a Hindu country.  Egypt is a Muslim country.  Europe is a Christian continent .  The white settlers of America, Australia, Canada, NZ were mostly Christians and they set up countries which all have a founding culture based on Christian ideas and observances. 
     Mehta seems to be a Sikh.  For him to object to Christian symbols in public spaces in America is provocative  in the same way as it would be for Europeans in India to kick up a fuss about Hindu or Sikh religious symbols being displayed in public.     

  • allein

    I wish I could like this more times. :-D

  • allein

    He’s Jain (or was…)

  • lericr

    Bill, this attitude is about as fundamentally un-American as I can imagine. The US bill of rights represents some of the greatest human ideals and has influenced the expansion of human freedom to an incalculable degree. It is truly sad that you would throw away this precious gift in favor of some sort of majority rules policy.

  • Colin

    I support FFRF and similar organizations, and totally agree with the thrust of the article but oh dear…
    “FFRF is currently weighing their legal options.” Ouch.
    I wish you’d write in something resembling English.

  • wmdkitty

    Er… that bit IS, in fact, grammatically correct, and is in English, so I’m not sure what your objection to it is based on.

  • Matthew Baker

    Its a shame that in these type of cases a church or private citizen almost never comes forward to offer to display the nativity on their property because they realize this is a separation issue.   Judging from what I can find there are at least 77 churches in the country if not more. I am sure at least one of them is near the court house.
    In a related note you can find all sorts of statistics on just about any given spot in the US

  • Achron Timeless

    Ah, so you’re just going to sidestep my point and make some attempt at insulting me on an emotional level? How boringly typical. If you can’t handle the actual argument, don’t bother trying to play.

  • Achron Timeless

    I wouldn’t trust that source too firmly. According to it, 2% of the people in my county get to work via subway/rail. The only problem is, we don’t have that. We don’t have any sort of public transportation for that matter.

    In fact, I’m fairly certain there aren’t any subway lines in the entire state of Kentucky. Given that, suddenly the rest of the data starts to look suspect.

  • Ec53cooper

    It seems thath while the county is engaed in positive freedom (freedom to…) the atheists are pushing a negative freedom (freedom from…). It’s interesting that the more moder and liberal outlook is from those in support of the Christian decorations. Oh…I’m an atheist.

  • slantrhyme

    I do believe this thread has attracted a large number of trolls and people who are pretending to be someone they are not.  Lying, in other words. 

    Does anyone else remember that preacher who got busted posing as an atheist a while back?  I think we’ve got one, if not two, who are likely candidates. 

    Anyone else getting that vibe? 

  • wmdkitty

    Oh, thank Ceiling Cat, I thought it was just me.

  • Paul

    You really have to separate the religion from the tradition. If you don’t… then I assume you do not celebrate any part of Christmas? 

    Christmas is a traditional event based on a famous story. Whether the story is true or not doesn’t change the fact that it is a traditional part of the year. As an atheist I don’t have a problem with nativity scenes. They represent a reminder of the origins (true or not) of the tradition of Christmas. To you, they present something else.

    And the Atheists (big ‘A’) viewpoint is to remove all traces of religion. If you cannot trust a courtroom that shows something as benign as a nativity scene (once a year!) then you probably can’t trust anyone who demonstrates belief in a mystical entity – even if they keep that belief to themselves.

  • Paul

    ‘Historical damage’?? It’s impossible to prove that religion has been a net bad thing. At times it was downright required. Just not now. Or, hopefully, in the future.

  • Paul

    Nativity asserts that there is a story. Up to the viewer to believe that story or not.

    Saying ‘all believers are immoral’ IS asserting something.

    They are not the same.

  • Paul

    There is a line between religion and tradition. I see nativity as on the latter side. Therefore government is not endorsing the religion, only the tradition.

  • Achron Timeless

    Well, since you’re too lazy to do your own homework on this and get pissy with me about it, I’m gonna be lazy and give you only one example.

    The Black Death.

    Now how could the bubonic plague be religion’s fault? They believed cats were the familiars of witches, so they killed all the cats. Then the plague rats infested the city and their fleas spread the disease. If not for their silly belief, there would’ve been cats to control the rat population.

    And that’s just off the top of my head. Seriously, it doesn’t take much effort. You can’t swing a dead cat (see what I did there?) without hitting an example.

  • Asd

    Silo Mowbray, did the butt get hurt? …

  • Illumielle

    I don’t like it when atheists use the metaphorical meaning of “heart”.

  • PsiCop

    Oh no! I apologize. I did go off track here and am sorry.

  • PsiCop

    Re: “As an atheist I don’t have a problem with nativity scenes.”

    Actually I don’t either. I just don’t think they need to be on government property. Is there any particular reason why putting one on private property, but in a noticeable location, is not possible? No one has yet explained why this is not an acceptable compromise.

    Re: “And the Atheists (big ‘A’) viewpoint is to remove all traces of religion.”

    Really? Please list the “Atheists” who want “all traces of religion removed” from the country. Who wants all the Bibles burned? Who wants all crucifixes taken down and destroyed? Who wants all churches closed? Who wants all clergy arrested?

    Please, I want to know who advocates all of this. I’m serious. Believers keep saying it’s happening, yet I’ve never seen any evidence of it. I can only assume they have information I’m not privy to.

    Please provide this information, if you have it. If you don’t, then perhaps it’s time to stop making such claims.

  • Michael

    No. That is ridiculous. You can argue a point without having a vested interest in it. It isn’t crazy, it’s impartial and objective, which is in direct contrast to what I’m seeing from most of you. Christmas is a religious holiday, so was the winter solstice for that matter. I’m about as atheist as it gets. But fuck me, let them have christmas, let them put up decorations and celebrate something they believe in. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone who the fuck cares? You guys need to grow and find some form of identity outside of your (anti) religious views.

  • C Peterson

    You are massively missing the point. Nobody is stopping anybody from having their Christmas. This is about a gross violation of everyone’s Constitutional rights. Everyone is being harmed whenever a government entity endorses, or even gives the appearance of endorsing, any particular religious viewpoint.

    This has nothing to do with religion, it has nothing to do with Christmas. It’s about Constitutional law.

  • Paul

    Adding two question marks = pissy. Got it. New board for me etc etc.

    The main reason why you cannot say religion was a net bad thing is because you have no idea what would have transpired if religion had been never ‘invented’. Would all war and suffering have stopped? No. Would stupid decisions that negatively effected large amount of people still have been made? Yes. 

  • Paul

    The fact that strong Atheists are using a nativity scene as justification to tell others with different beliefs that they are ‘slaves’ shows just how far they are willing to go. Burning books, no (who does that now anyway?) – but telling others they are ‘slaves’ and, by implication, lesser people is the first step to oppression. 

    Atheism should not be founded as ‘anti-religion’ it should be founded on critical thinking and tolerance of alternative viewpoints (without that tolerance you cannot learn and accept new knowledge). Telling others they are ‘slaves’ is… well… neither.

  • Achron Timeless

    Eh, it happens =)

  • Paul

    I do not feel targeted for insult by a nativity scene. I did feel that the FFRF’s message was provocative and likely to cause insult. Which runs counter to the traditional message of Christmas.

  • Achron Timeless

    Well since this comment system is as annoying as you are, I’ll keep it short.

    If you don’t have an actual reason for acting the way you have, you have issues hon.

    I’m not buying that you’re an atheistanyway, no one is. Afterall, you don’t see atheists claiming to have divineknowledge about someone’s whole life revolving around one subject. =P

  • Achron Timeless

    Would entire races have been systematically wiped off the “new world” or cruelly attempted to be converted to the religions of their invaders? No. Would the pace of human discovery have been artificially held back for centuries because it contradicted with holy books? No. Heck, the arab world was once the center of knowledge. There’s a reason we call them “arabic numerals” or call it “algebra”. There’s a reason the constellations are greek but the stars have arabic names. Know what stopped that? Religion. You can’t tell me that the fairly recent trend of murdering children for witchcraft in africa right now isn’t because of the efforts of missionaries convincing them that witches are real because their holy books say so. I could go on…

    You can’t tell me that didn’t have a net effect, and to even claim that it’s impossible to fathom one is ludicrous and pissy. In fact, it shows a predisposition to assume religion is all wonderful, and that has made everyone question your motives in acting how you have. So, I’d agree, this might not be a place where you’re going to make friends if you insist on continuing it.

  • Achron Timeless

    The sheer number, only commenting on this particular article, is a sign that we’ve been targeted for troll invasion from some other site. They’re not as clever as they think they are though, because we’ve obviously seen their mile wide religious streak coming through in everything they’re saying. I’m rather insulted that they honestly thought we’d be stupid enough to believe they’re atheists.

  • PickMyChristmasGifts


  • Paul

    “predisposition to assume religion is all wonderful”

    The lack of gray area here is concerning. I neither say it is a net good or a net bad. History doesn’t say one way or the other.

    Soviet Union had no religion but committed horrible crimes. So what? Men do the crimes. Religion is the excuse. 

    So I’m saying remove religion and something else would have been found to justify similar acts of cruelty.

    The ‘enlightening’ humanity is going through is not caused by the removal of religion but by more visibility given to horrible deeds through radio, tv, and internet. (imo)

  • Achron Timeless

    Oh, so I can’t have any idea what would’ve transpired without religion, but you know it would’ve been the same with a different excuse? 

    If you actually are an atheist as you claim to be, I’m ashamed of what’s becoming of our movement if that’s the kind of reasoning people are using these days. That’s just sad.

  • Paul

    I’m saying it cannot be proved. 

    You seem to deal in absolutes. I do not.

    I’m an atheist, small ‘a’.

  • Achron Timeless

    “you cannot say”

    “It’s impossible”

    “no idea what would have transpired” contradicted by “remove religion and something else would have been found”

    Yet, I’m supposedly dealing in absolutes? Seriously, your ability to reason is broken. Go back into the shop and see about getting that fixed.

    As for your weird ass pretend distinction? Atheist is capitalized at the beginning of a sentence and is atheist everywhere else, unless it’s in a book title. Making up an extra meaning for that so you can feel super special just proves, again, that you’re not out for the side of truth, you’re out for what makes you feel comfortable, and I have no time for that foolishness.

  • PsiCop

    Re: “The fact that strong Atheists are using a nativity scene as justification to tell others with different beliefs that they are ‘slaves’ shows just how far they are willing to go. Burning books, no (who does that now anyway?) – but telling others they are ‘slaves’ and, by implication, lesser people is the first step to oppression.”

    So you’re saying mere words … e.g. telling people religion has “enslaved” them … is the equivalent of actually outlawing religion?

    Really? An insult is the same as a physical effort to harm people?

    Are you sure you want to go with that?

    I still don’t see the equivalence. You’re going to have to try a little harder to establish it.
    As for people being insulted, who cares? People are insulted all the time. It happens constantly. Muslims were insulted when people drew Mohammad cartoons and made a movie about their prophet. But is that the same as trying to maim and kill them (which, oddly enough, is what they did, themselves, to other people because of this mere insult)? How so? Please explain, in detail.

    As a non-believer, I’m insulted every time some theist says I’m a Nazi and want to commit atroocities because I refuse to believe in their religion. Are you going to tell them to stop doing that? Or do they get a “pass” in your book? If so, on what basis do you condemn in non-believers what theists are often guilty of, themselves?

    Maybe it’s time we stopped already with the childish kvetching and wailing about “insults.” Let’s all pull up our big boy (or girl) pants and deal with the insults that come our way now and then. If we all did that, then maybe people wouldn’t get their knickers in knots all the time over stuff that really isn’t going to harm them.

  • Paul

    Saved by the rediculousthinning of the discussion!Probably for the best!

  • slantrhyme

     I’d really like to know what his objection is as well.  I’m open to the fact that it might be wrong, but how?  This is like a Far Side cartoon that doesn’t make sense, and you wonder if you’re crazy or the only one out of the loop.  C’mon Colin, the floor is yours….

  • Earl G.

    Yes, Bill, all brown people are Sikhs.  Even when they are called the Friendly Atheist and run an atheist blog where they talk about their atheism and about atheist issues.

    Truly top-notch deductive skills you’ve got there.

  • Earl G.

    Being told that there is no Hell is the most cheery message possible.

  • Antinomian

    “Oh…I’m an atheist.”
    And I’m an astronaut in the North Korean interstellar space program.

  • amycas

     The nativity scene is quite obviously more than just tradition. Maybe if Christianity wasn’t still widely practiced and the nativity scene really was seen as just a nice story, you might have a point. But, when Christmas and the nativity are still seen by modern practicing Christians as incredibly important in their religious beliefs and practices, then it is not mere tradition.

  • amycas

     This atheist doesn’t like Christmas. This atheist doesn’t like that Christians deem it the most important time of the year and insist that you celebrate it with them. This atheist doesn’t like the fact that if I want to spend time with my family, that I have to pretend to celebrate a holiday that has become nothing but giving gifts because one is obligated to do so. From my point of view, it’s not secular. From my point of view, a nativity scene is incredibly religious. I guess one could see it as secular if they didn’t grow up with the religious version where you have to look on the nativity scene with reverence and awe, but that’s not the case for the Christians who fight to get them erected on public land. Those Christians are not doing it out of some secular tradition; they’re doing it because they want to mark this country, and that time of year as theirs. They think they own it. This isn’t about removing all historical trace of religion from society. This is about removing religion from government.

  • amycas

     “The manger scene doesn’t attack someone else’s beliefs, but rather, promotes ones own”

    Yes, it’s promoting a religion. Who is doing the promoting? The government is. That’s the problem. I don’t find the nativity scene itself insulting, I find the government endorsing or promoting it to be insulting. If Christians want to promote their own religion then they should do so without using the government.

  • amycas

    Because, of course, there are no locals who don’t celebrate Christmas, and maybe don’t want their local government endorsing religion. They can keep their silly mangers, just put it on a church lawn.

  • amycas

     No. Just no. The American government is not Christian. This isn’t about Christmas decorations in public. This is about the government sponsoring Christian decorations on public property. There is a difference.

  • amycas

     The Christians have all the freedom in the world to put up a nativity scene on their own property.

  • Birdie1986

    I agree with this.  I think it’s fine to say that there are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell, but to say that Christianity only serves to harden hearts and enslave is not only just your opinion, but it’s really not true.  I think that some interpretations of Christianity, and literal reading of the Bible may do that, but making that blanket opinion statement serves no good purpose and doesn’t really reflect what FFRF stands for.  That being said, it’s completely unconstitutional for them to have the nativity scene there, and they just should not have it or any other religious symbolism. 

  • Matthew Baker

     There is a margin of error with this sort of statistics.  I was using it more of an example of the information that can be found out there . I am sure most of the statistics can be cross referenced using other sites. 

  • Russian Alex

     I can see quite a number of them, but then again, not everyone who disagrees is a troll. There were a few good points made.

  • Russian Alex

     > The white settlers of America, Australia, Canada, NZ were mostly
    Christians and they set up countries which all have a founding culture
    based on Christian ideas and observances.

    While that may be true for the majority of those settlers, as well as current American population, the founders were wise enough to recognize their cultural differences and freedom of conscience, and specifically wrote it in their supreme document that government should not be in business of promoting religion — or prohibiting it, for that matter. The argument is not “we aren’t Christians, so we don’t want to see Christian junk.” A number of churches and individuals put up nativity scenes in their front yards, and nobody (at least on this site) has a problem with that. It’s when the government starts to get involved things get messy — especially when the said government plays favorites. While FFRF’s message, admittedly, could be better, the point still stands.

    > Mehta seems to be a Sikh.

    Psst… Your racism is showing.

  • Russian Alex

     I was actually thinking along those lines. They don’t like a banner? Well, would a sculpture of FSM be acceptable?

  • MarcAdams

    I dont hate the message but seriously that banner is UG. LY.  Are there no gay atheist graphic designers?

  • UnderINK

    They should put that excuse to the test and have a very large scarlet A banner with ‘Happy Holidays’ and see if it’s still rejected.

  • Bskeptic

     So there is a mild Christian message arguably being given from a public institution… well it is Christmas!

    Fact is, is that Christianity is a part of Western holidays. So no,
    sorry, but other religious or irreligious viewpoints don’t get the
    privilege that Christianity does!

    Christmas involves the Christian religion. Promoting atheism, however, has nothing to do with Christmas!

  • Joseph Ciolino

    There is no point or purpose to an alternative sign to a Christmas display other than political.    It is an offense, and in bad taste, but those things seem to be what America is about nowadays, no?