Atheist Donates Christmas Star to Nativity Scene on Government Property

Oh, Patrick Greene, you atheist-turned-Christian-turned-atheist… Why am I writing about you again? I thought I was done with you! What have you done that’s newsworthy this time?

Patrick Greene

Well, in Henderson County, Texas, local officials rejected a sign from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that they wanted to put on the courthouse lawn:

“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.

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.

We can debate whether the FFRF’s sign is really all that “inviting” and in the spirit of the holiday season, but the fact is that an atheist group’s sign was rejected. Meanwhile, this Nativity Scene will be going up on the courthouse lawn:

There will be a Christmas tree, too.

So where does Patrick Greene fit into all this?

Patrick Greene… has recently offered a large light-up star to accompany the Henderson County courthouse’s public nativity display in Athens, Texas.

Oh, goddammit…

Greene, who purchased the star in March 2012, says that the purpose of the creation, which is from both him and his wife, is to dispel the “animosity that grew towards atheists” in the Athens area.

The star, which is four-feet long, is accompanied by a handwritten sign which reads: “This star is a gift from two Texas atheists, Merry Christmas.”

“We can’t risk any more animosity toward atheists by letting people think Christians are the ones that put the nativity scene there, and that Christians were the ones that put the star there,” Greene added.

As Henderson County officials told KHOU-TV, they will contemplate displaying Greene’s star and sign on the public nativity display this holiday season, although typically they do not allow displays with words.

Look. I understand why Greene is making the gesture. But it’s the absolute wrong way to go about this.

It sends the message that atheists are ok with the Christian display as long as we get to be a part of it. That’s the wrong message to send. It allows Christians to think that what they’re doing is perfectly fine. It’s not, and atheists should be pointing that out whenever we can, even if it means filing a lawsuit if necessary.

No rational person is looking at a Nativity scene on government property and thinking, “That’s inclusive of everybody!” It’s a Christian symbol and everybody knows it.

What’s next? Is Greene going to donate a Baby Jesus?

By the way, the sign Greene made to accompany the star isn’t exactly screaming, “Look! An atheist donated the star!” It’s more like, “Look! An eight-year-old just learned cursive!”

(via KLTV)

Do I sound bitter? I don’t mean to sound bitter. Well, maybe for a few more lines…

I know atheists have a problem with the whole “graphic design” thing but that’s a new low. (Also, “Merry Christmas”? Greene, WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?!)

And you have to love the last lines of the Christian Post article:

As Greene told KLTV 7, he believes his star and its accompanying sign symbolize “goodwill between people,” namely the atheist and religious communities of Athens.

“If they say no, we are ready to go legally for religious discrimination,” Greene added.

To paraphrase: Greene donated a star to alleviate the animosity between Christians and atheists… but if they don’t take it, he’s gonna sue their asses off.

Lovely.

Greene has already said he plans to file a lawsuit on Monday since county officials have said they won’t display his tacky sign. I don’t blame them for that.

But the officials are wrong to allow the Nativity scene in the first place.

I hope FFRF goes through with their lawsuit. It’s not a victory when we enhance the Christian display. It’s a victory when either all religious and non-religious displays are allowed on the courthouse lawn (good luck with that) or none of them are.

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.


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