Athens Atheist Backs Down — For Now

A San Antonio man says he plans to drop his lawsuit against the city of Athens for putting up a nativity scene in front of the Henderson County courthouse as a Christmas decoration. But he isn’t giving up his fight.

In short, atheist Patrick Green said it’s no longer a fair fight because Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has offered to step in and assist the city or the county.

Greene’s original suit claims the city is helping fund the display, which is a violation of both state and federal law.

But he doesn’t believe his suit will get a fair shake in court if Abbott is involved and therefore plans to ask the judge to dismiss it. He will file a new one against the attorney general because he claims Abbott’s involvement indicates a showing of preference of one religion over another.

“I realized the power that Greg Abbott has. There would be no fair adjudication of my lawsuit with Greg Abbott butting his nose into it. So I’m filing a dismissal because basically it’s not going to be unbiased. I want him to mind his own business,” he said.

Greene maintains he’d like to see the nativity scene moved to private property, such as church property.

Or he said the Texas Constitution would be okay with the nativity scene if there was at least one other religious symbol such as a menorah in the same vicinity. Then there would be no mistaking that the state was not advocating any one religion.

“If the nativity scene was with a menorah and other religious beliefs that would be terrific,” he said.

Abbott’s office released a statement that said, “Public acknowledgements of religious heritage are constitutional and protected by Supreme Court precedent. The city of Athens and Henderson County have no legal obligation to remove a nativity scene from the courthouse grounds during the Christmas season. The Attorney General’s Office stands ready to provide appropriate legal support to further protect religious liberties in the state of Texas.”

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