Texas County Votes Against Atheist Christmas Display

Texas County Votes Against Atheist Christmas Display

A county in Texas denied a petition from an atheist group who wanted to place their own banner next to a Nativity scene at the county courthouse there at Christmas.

The banner was displayed in the courtroom before discussion started.

It read, from top to bottom, the Facebook symbol, then “/KerrvilleFreeThought, Happy Winter Solstice, At this season of the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the Birth of the Unconquered Sun – the TRUE reason for the season. As Americans, let us also honor the birth of our Bill of Rights, which reminds us there can be no freedom OF religion, without freedom FROM religion in government. Freedom From Religion Foundation, FFRF.org.

Pastor Greg Young of Kerrville asked to speak at the start of the regular meeting as he had a live radio show to broadcast at 11 a.m. and commissioners agreed.

Young said FFRF “preys upon small communities like Kerrville” saying the organization’s founder “has absolute disdain for Christianity.” He told a story to say allowing this one request would lead to multiple unwanted actions in the future, eventually pushing out current beliefs and values.

About 200 people were in the district courtroom, standing room only, by 11:20 a.m. when commissioners moved upstairs. Pollard had about a dozen speaker forms, offered one more chance for those, warned he expected order in the room, then called on Whitsett.

In case attendees hadn’t seen the photo of this banner in the agenda packet, Pollard helped Whitsett unroll and display it; and again said Whitsett asked to display the banner, and didn’t ask to block the Nativity scene.

Whitsett said, “I ask only that this banner be put up, and I would rather the other Manger Scene be put up, too. I think Christmas is a fine time to celebrate our Bill of Rights which was ratified near that season,” adding the FFRF Facebook page invites atheists and agnostics to take part in discussions. “We only want equal treatment,” Whitsett said.

The audience was mostly quiet, with a few audible “Amens” and supporting short comments. Every speaker opposed Whitsett’s request, and was applauded by the crowd.

Pam Wood called FFRF perhaps new to Kerrville but known elsewhere as an anti-religion group. She cited a definition of “free thinkers” by that group, saying they specifically mention Christians and Jews, making their argument for freedom from religion “disingenuous.” “They want a refusal because it suits their beliefs and allows them to go to court.”

Kenny Bledsoe said he’s a church-goer, and if this banner was allowed, it would be a foot in the door to Christianity in general for the FFRF. “They have the right to worship as they please, but I am opposed to putting this banner anywhere in Kerr County.”

Pastor Del Way of Calvary Temple Church said, “The problem is, they claim freedom from religion, but they want to do it on our holiday. I oppose this, especially on the courthouse square. We believe they are trying to take over our religion.” Way said he had more than 1,000 signatures on petitions from his church, and told Whitsett, “Leave us alone. Get your own holiday.”

John Hammack said America has been a nation under God since Columbus arrived; and asked commissioners “not to let some pagan atheist take Christ out of Christmas,” historically set Dec. 25.
Patricia Carson declared her faith in Jesus, and said it’s His birthday that’s celebrated. “If these other people want a special day, they need to get another special day.”

Starting with Buster Baldwin, commissioners said they are representative of citizens in their precincts, and hired to take care of citizens’ business. “That’s why there’s a ‘no’ vote from me,” Baldwin said.

One by one, Tom Moser, Judge Tom Pollard, Jonathan Letz and Bob Reeves said they agreed. Moser suggested the actual winter solstice Dec. 21 might be a better date, and protests from the audience were quickly quieted. Commissioners voted 5-0 to deny Whitsell’s request.

Christmas Tree Arguments Down Under

Christmas Tree Arguments Down Under

Christmas trees are problematic in the southern hemisphere. While much of the world relishes a cold Christmas with snow, sleigh bells and frosted trees warm weather locales celebrate Christmas in the heat of summer. They tend to adopt the iconic traditions of Christmas the best they can — especially with Christmas trees.

Mexico and Brazil have famous larger-than-life Christmas trees made of metal structures housing millions of lights. In Australia they do much the same thing, turning the lighting of the Christmas tree into an event akin to anything done on the 4th of July in America with bbq’s, beach wear and fireworks.

But this has been a summer of discord over the topic of public Christmas trees in Australia. At issue are the thorny topics of cost and looks.

In Hobart they erected a tree that gained international attention for it’s progressive art form. As a tree it looked like anything but a celebration of Christmas. Now there are some calling for it to be replaced.

In the port city of Geelong the controversy over their expensive floating Christmas tree has raged for three seasons now. The massive tree was criticized for its cost even though the city planned huge community lighting and holiday events that drew massive crowds. Sparring political opponents took sides — and the anti-tree crowd has lost. An entire council of politicians lost their jobs over the issue and now embarrassed city officials are left to admit that, doggone it, the tree actually brought a 540% return on investment to the city. Oops.

Look for the Geelong tree to return this year with an all-new expensive star added to the top of the tree that is sure to once again be featured in international media.

Satan Coming to Florida State Capitol this Christmas

Satan Coming to Florida State Capitol this Christmas

The state of Florida has caved on it’s denial of a permit to the New York-based Satanic Temple for a display in the capitol later this month. The state capitol in Florida has been a hot-spot for Christmas controversy for several years as Christians have fought for access for a Nativity scene next to space granted to Atheists for a Festivus pole. Now Lucifer joins the fun.

The Satan Temple, which does NOT claim a belief in Satan, is yet another group that merely agitates in its fight against religious displays on public property. Another group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a church-state activist group, threatened a lawsuit on behalf of The Satanic Temple.

The group will be displaying images of an angel falling into burning flames, Bible verses and a “Happy Holidays” message.

It is important to understand that these groups are NOT fighting for free speech — they are fighting AGAINST religion. They use the false argument that the mere mention of the free speech of religion constitutes a violation of the establishment clause of the US Constitution.

Thus, allowing them to display alongside a religious display such as a Nativity or a Menorah really gains them nothing. Their ultimate goal is to get everything out of government spaces and to ban religious dialogue from public expression entirely. The more absurd they can be moves them closer to achieving that goal. Now that support for Satanic messaging has been approved it is reasonable to assume their displays will become more extreme.

Fight for Christmas in Marshfield Persists

Fight for Christmas in Marshfield Persists

A simple school calendar change has erupted into a protracted battle. The school board, despite public outcry, changed from “Christmas break” to “Holiday Break” months ago — and the public keeps fighting back.

“There are signs all over town: ‘There’s Still a Christmas,’ ‘Bring Back Christmas.’ There’s some little kids in town picking up on this and wondering if Santa is going to come to their house,” said attorney Dennis Scollins, the Marshfield School Committee’s longest-serving member and one of two who stood up for St. Nick when the board voted 3-2 on Sept. 9 to replace “Christmas” with “holiday” for the Dec. 24 to ?Jan. 2 vacation.

More than 4,245 signatures collected by a pro-Noel petition drive prompted the special meeting at 8 p.m.

Board chairwoman Marti Morrison said she “loves Christmas” but led the charge to scrub the calendar and is now being assailed around town as “the Grinch” because of it.

“Supposedly our whole country is based on religious freedom,” Morrison said. “I certainly appreciate when people feel very strongly about their religious background, but as a School Committee member, my job is to make decisions I believe are in the best interest of our town.”

In a heavily Irish Catholic town, Morrison said, “The world around us looks very different than Marshfield. We want our students to be open to differences.”

Pro-“holiday” voter Carol Shrand, the board’s vice-chair, said, “This is really about using inclusive language that reflects the diversity of faiths here in Marshfield. We take an oath to serve all our students and each and every one of them needs to feel welcome, included and represented.”

Elaine Taylor, whose children are now grown, has been the driving force behind the resurrection of Christmas vacation. Her backers will be hitting the streets today holding signs and playing Christmas carols, as well as lighting up the phone lines, reminding supporters to turn out tonight.

Michigan Shapes Up as Battle Ground Over Nativity Scene

Michigan Shapes Up as Battle Ground Over Nativity Scene

Michigan state officials are considering whether a Christian Nativity scene and a counter-display from a secularist group should join the state Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn this holiday season.

The State Capitol Commission on Monday agreed to contract with the Michigan attorney general’s office for a part-time staff attorney over six months for $37,000. The attorney would advise the commission on various issues, including the request to place a representation of the birth of Jesus at the state Capitol.

Commission member John Truscott said he expects the office will approve the Nativity with the same conditions as demonstrations that are frequently held on the grounds. He declined to say who made the request.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation based in Madison, Wisconsin, said Tuesday it would request a counter-display if the Nativity is approved.

The displays would have to be taken down daily.