Haven't we seen this before?
If you're unfamiliar with the newest saga, here's some background information. A couple of weeks ago, Henderson County officials received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that reminded them that the nativity scene currently on display on the courthouse lawn is unconstitutional; they also requested that the religious scene be removed from government land. The courthouse officials, as well as most of the people in Athens, disagreed. Henderson County officials went even further by mentioning that they did not pay for the nativity scene, nor did they use government employees to assemble it. You would think these county officials have skillfully found themselves a slimy little loophole into which they can slither their religion.
(Just a side note: The FFRF also requested that the courthouse add one of their banners to the lawn, but that issue wasn't addressed by the newspaper.)
Then, the "offended" Christians of Texas assembled outside the courthouse as a gesture of support for the dolls... erm... I meant nativity scene. And as I said before, at the height of the rally there were several thousand pissed off baby Jesus freaks claiming an ongoing holy war against their religion.
Public opinion, however, is absolutely not the issue here. People should remember their history, because popularity is never a good means by which society should form its rules and laws. Segregation was extremely popular during the racial equality movement. Treating women like objects and baby makers was popular before the the feminist movement. Slavery was very popular before the Emancipation Proclamation.
Thus, assembling a rally of like-minded people does not automatically make a nativity scene acceptable in our society. (The argumentum ad populum fallacy.)
We know perfectly well that Christians are the predominant religion here in Texas. So what if you get a crowd of them to show up in one spot for a rally? That doesn't make it right.
Seriously, if you lump all the main Christians groups together, according to the 2007 survey by the Pew Center on Religion, that adds up to 82% of the Texas population. Of course a rally like that is going to be popular!
And don't think for a minute that the local pastors didn't recognize a perfect opportunity to exploit a local issue to get some face time in the mainstream media. Holy war my arse...
Look, advertising Christianity on the lawn of a courthouse that serves all of the people of Athens, Texas will more than likely scare the hell out of anyone approaching that government building who are not affiliated with Christianity. It's wrong, and it's unconstitutional.
But Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders sees it differently. He says:
"Residents haven't complained. I just don't understand it, to be honest with you. I'm just confused about it."Well, Judge Sanders, in years past, residents didn't complain when lynch mobs hung black men from the trees of Texas courthouses either.