AG Gregg Abbott, culture wars, First Amendment, Fox News & Commentary, Freedom of Religion, Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders, Nativity scenes, religion, telling Atheists, Ten Commandments, Todd Barnes, TX attorney general, Wisconsin
Posted December 16, 2011
The Texas Attorney General has offered to defend a Texas county under attack by a group of Wisconsin atheists who are demanding that a Nativity located on the lawn of the Henderson County courthouse be torn down.
“Our message to the atheists is don’t mess with Texas and our Nativity scenes or the Ten Commandments,” Attorney General Greg Abbott told Fox News & Commentary. “I want the Freedom From Religion Foundation to know that our office has a history of defending religious displays in this state.”
Abbott sent a letter to Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders offering whatever help he could provide in the event the county is sued. He also assured the judge that the county has no legal obligation to remove the Nativity scene from the courthouse grounds.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group based in Wisconsin, sent a letter to Henderson County explaining that a local resident had complained and they wanted the Nativity removed.
“It sends a message of intimidation and exclusion to non-Christians and non-believers this time of year,” FFRF co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor told television station KFDW.
She said the location of the Nativity — on the lawn of the courthouse in Athens, made non-Christians feel unwelcome.
“Anybody walking by that is going to say, ‘Hmmm. This is a Christian government building. I’m not welcome here if I’m not Christian,’” she told the television station.
Attorney General Abbott said the organization is trying to “bully local governmental bodies” and he said he wanted to make sure Henderson County knows “there is a person, a lawyer and an organization in this state that has their back, that has the law, that has the muscle and firepower to go toe-to-toe with these organizations that come from out of state trying to bully governmental bodies into tearing down things like Nativity scenes.”
Many residents and ministers in this east Texas community have vowed to fight back. Hundreds of people are expected to attend a rally on Saturday to show their support for the Nativity. Nathan Lorick, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Malakoff is one of the organizers of the rally. He called on residents to gather peacefully and in a spirit of love.
“It’s time that Americans stand up and take America back for the faith that we were founded upon,” Lorick told Fox News & Commentary last week. “We’re going to stand up and fight for this.”
Henderson County Commissioner Joe Hall called the attack “stupid” and said he’s going to do whatever it takes to stop the group from removing the Nativity.
“I’ll tell you this — I’m going to fight this until hell freezes over,” Hall told Fox News & Commentary. “I hope and pray that we leave it up.”
Hall said he’s lived in the community for 35 years and as long as he can remember the Nativity has been erected on the courthouse lawn.
“It’s been up there for decades without any complaints,” he said.
Pastor Lorick said it’s time to draw a line in the sand — and start standing up for the Christian faith.
“Christianity is under attack in America,” he told Fox News & Commentary. “Our country is quickly heading down a direction which the Christian faith is taking a hit — it’s quickly becoming suppressed.”
The attorney general agreed with that sentiment.
“There has been an ongoing battle between the forces of atheism and the forces of those who are antagonistic to all things religious against those who recognize the religious heritage of this country,” Abbott said. “And by defending Nativity scenes, by defending the Ten Commandments and by defending students who try to say a prayer at a graduation ceremony, we’re trying to preserve, protect and defend what we know is perfectly legal.”