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Lawsuit over secular nativity display will proceed

Merry secular Christmas, y’all.

A lawsuit is moving forward against Gov. Greg Abbott over his order to remove a satirical nativity scene from the Texas Capitol last year.

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Wisconsin-based group behind the exhibit, raised valid questions about free speech rights when it sued Abbott earlier this year. Abbott had asked the state Preservation Board to get rid of the exhibit, which advocated for the separation of church and state.

The preservation board had initially approved the display, which featured a cardboard cutout of the nation’s founding fathers and the Statue of Liberty looking down at the Bill of Rights in a manger. Abbott, writing to the preservation board once the exhibit had gone up, denounced it as a “juvenile parody” intended to offend Christians.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks wrote Tuesday that the lawsuit should proceed because Abbott’s order may have been based on the fact he simply disagreed with the viewpoint the exhibit was expressing. Groups are allowed to display exhibits in certain parts of the Capitol as long as they have a “public purpose,” according to state rules.

Abbott’s office said Wednesday it was pleased Sparks did not require the state to put the exhibit back on display. “Governor Abbott remains confident that the Constitution does not require Texas to display this intentionally disrespectful exhibit,” Abbott spokesman John Wittman said in a statement.

See here and here for the background. I agree with the ruling, I support the FFRF’s lawsuit and I expect them to prevail, but I’ve come to the conclusion that Abbott doesn’t really care about the outcome of the case. He’s already gotten what he wanted out of this, which was to send a message to his supporters that he was there for them, giving the finger to those godless liberals who sneer at them all the time. Win or lose in court, he gets to polish his bona fides – hell, from that perspective, he’ll be even happier to lose, as that feeds the siege mentality. It’s of a piece with him ridiculous Twitter fight with non-Trump elector Chris Suprun. I suspect we’re going to see a lot more of this stuff over the next four years. The Dallas Observer has more.

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7 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    I agree with Kuff’s assessment 100%. If you want your display up on public grounds, then you can’t be too choosy when someone else wants their own display up, too. Abbott and Co. should lose this suit, and, as a taxpayer, I kinda resent my tax dollars being wasted to fight the unjustifiable.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean I think the FFRF is any kind of hero here. Let’s say (humor me here for a minute) that the Texans win the Superbowl and most folks think a temporary display commemorating that should be displayed in front of Houston’s city hall. Now, let’s say there are a few folks who want equal time to erect a Dallas Cowboys display. Do they have the right to demand that…..equal treatment and all that jazz? Sure. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to just let the Texans’ fans have their moment?

  2. Flypusher says:

    ” Let’s say (humor me here for a minute) that the Texans win the Superbowl and most folks think a temporary display commemorating that should be displayed in front of Houston’s city hall. Now, let’s say there are a few folks who want equal time to erect a Dallas Cowboys display. Do they have the right to demand that…..equal treatment and all that jazz? Sure. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to just let the Texans’ fans have their moment?”

    It’s an old joke that football is a religion in Texas, but even given that, the example is too over the top. It would be laughed out of court.

  3. C.L. says:

    C’mon Bill, at least come up with a scenario that brushes on the ‘separation of church and State’ issue, instead of some wild ass conjecture re: the Texans and the Super Bowl.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Nothing in our Constitution about “separation of church and state,” merely that there can’t be an official religion. That means it’s OK for a creche on pulic property, but others should be able to put up their displays, too.

  5. Flypusher says:

    ‘Nothing in our Constitution about “separation of church and state,”’

    That exact phrase isn’t there, but if you think that intent isn’t, you need to go read more of Madison’s writings. He made it crystal clear that he thought mixing religion and government was bad for both institutions. You cannot have religious freedom for everyone unless the government is secular. The experiment with mixing religion and government in Colonial times proved that quite conclusively.

    I learn towards the side of let ALL groups have a display on public turf.

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    “I learn towards the side of let ALL groups have a display on public turf.”

    I agree. I don’t understand what’s so hard for Abbott and Co. to understand.

  7. C.L. says:

    True, the exact words, ‘separation of church and state’ never appear in the Constitution, but as the Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of federal constitutional law, and as they ruled in Everson vs. Board of Education that “the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State.’”…I suspect we can take the separation issue as gospel [no pun intended].