Just in time for the biggest and most celebrated Christian and capitalist day of the year, a leading Texas Republican is ruining the special day like some kind of biblical Scrooge. While real Christians acknowledge the “peace on Earth, goodwill toward all men” message from their scriptures, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is screaming that goodwill is reserved for evangelical Christians as a matter of course, but particularly at Christmas time.
About two weeks ago Abbott actually had the gall to stand in opposition to the U.S. Constitution and demanded the City of Orange restore a Christmas nativity scene after the city’s evangelical leaders forced its removal. Abbott said “I strongly encourage the City of Orange to stand up to the demands of a select few who wish to see God thrown out of the public square, embrace the season of Christmas and restore the Nativity Scene immediately.” Naturally, Abbott being the stand-up guy most Republicans are, he lied by embracing the concept that adhering to the U.S. Constitution is attacking god, persecuting Christians, and most of all it destroys the hijacked Pagan holiday Christmas.
This typically conservative Christian furor only came up after an atheist group filed an official request for a “Happy Holidays” banner to be placed in the same vicinity as a Christian nativity scene. Despite what Abbott, or the evangelical army girded the annual Christmas war, the atheist group was not attacking or bullying god, Christmas, or Christians. In fact, a spokesperson for the group stated their only intent was to acknowledge all religious and winter holidays. The spokesperson said, “Whether you are celebrating Saturnalia, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, the Winter Solstice, or any other holiday this time of year, The Orange County Atheists would like to wish you… Happy Holidays!” Texas’ governor claimed that kind of sentiment was bullying and persecuting Christians.
The idea of a secular group acknowledging all winter religious holiday celebrations as valid was just too much for the evangelical Republicans running the City of Orange. The city manager said the “Happy Holidays” banner was completely out-of-line and would not be displayed, period! It was just too damned offensive to Christians and real Texans. So, to show the atheists it is a Christian display or nothing, and “to avoid a future lawsuit,” the evangelicals running the city forced evangelicals to take down their nativity scene. For the record, the atheist group never threatened a lawsuit against anyone. But lying is another typical evangelical ploy to advance their precious persecution narrative; it keeps their hearts beating.
The move by the City of Orange council is a typical neo-American evangelical ploy; if Christians cannot claim exclusivity over taxpayer-funded government or its land, then no-one can participate. Governor Greg Abbott was incensed and cried out that he and his evangelical cohorts were being bullied because they cannot impose their religion on the public. In fact he said the Constitution “commands accommodation of religion rather than hostility towards it.” That bizarre interpretation, that accommodation of a religion other than Christianity is “hostility towards it” speaks for itself.
Abbott did not stop at attempting to insert his evangelical authority against the Constitution in the City of Orange. As a blatant evangelical site proclaimed in bold letters; “Texas Governor Stands Against Atheist War On Christmas.” Who knows if Governor Abbott really stood against atheists, but there is no doubt he is using religion to stand against the U.S. Constitution and Texas law.
Another crisis began this week when the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) decided to put up their own interpretation of a nativity scene where the Founding Fathers and Lady Liberty acknowledge the birth of the Bill of Rights. Especially that First Amendment “right” guaranteeing that evangelicals cannot force their religion on the government or the people. It is also the Amendment evangelicals would abolish first if they were able.
According to the crusader governor, the secular display is an abomination and must be removed; the Christian nativity scene, however, must be preserved, defended, and protected like Abbot’s oath and duty to the Constitution. The issue, though, is that evangelical governor or not, Abbot has no authority to unilaterally change or violate a legal statute about displays at the state capital; likely it is why evangelicals are applauding Abbott for “standing up against atheists.”
According to Texas law, the State Capitol is an open forum for holiday displays, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) duly applied for, and was granted, permission to put up its own nativity display. The display is an image of the Bill of Rights flanked by Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and the Statue of Liberty with a “Happy Winter Solstice” and praise for the Bill of Rights message on a separate placard next to it.
Just the idea of honoring the Bill of Rights as a protection against religious imposition on Americans’ personal lives was something Governor Abbot was not going to take sitting down; thus the “Abbott stands up against atheists” rallying cry from evangelicals.
Abbott unleashed an evangelical tirade and used his theocratic authority to order the secular display removed from the State Capital immediately; something he has no legal authority to do. Abbot also issued a truly bizarro-logic letter to the executive Director of the State Preservation Board, John Sneed, laying out exactly why anything other than a Christian display on government property is blatantly illegal and unbiblical. Abbot also claims he and his evangelical cohort are getting damn sick and tired of being bullied and persecuted by secular groups armed with that damned dirty document, the U.S. Constitution.
Having already went through the rule process of requesting, and being granted, permission to proceed with its constitutional display, the FFRF threatened a real lawsuit. A lawsuit founded on the U.S. Constitution and Texas’ own rules; not the evangelical governor’s theocratic edict. As noted by one observer, like all evangelical fundamentalists, Abbot is too much of a coward to “come right out and say I hate atheists and they have no rights or reason to exist,” so he uses whatever lame excuse possible to attack them.
FFRF’s co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said,
“Ironically, the very document that our display was honoring is what protects this form of expression. Government officials cannot censor our speech because they disagree with our secular message.”
The staff attorney for FFRF, Sam Grover added,
“We are disappointed that Governor Abbott has let his personal opinion of free thought and the FFRF be a catalyst for the censorship of our display in the Texas Capitol. Removing our Bill of Rights ‘nativity’ while allowing a Christian nativity to be displayed in the Capitol is discriminatory and illegal. Abbott is sending the message that nonbelievers are second-class citizens in Texas. He should be ashamed.”
Since Abbot is incapable of feeling much of anything, much less shame for violating the Constitution, and since he refuses to change his theocratic governing style, Gaylor said the group has no recourse but to pursue legal redress; “It’s Abbott’s action that is immoral — and unconstitutional, not our display honoring the Bill of Rights.”
Here is the thing the evangelical Republicans working to force-feed their religion, or their Christmas, down Americans throats just cannot comprehend: it is the grossest violation of the Founders’ intent in the First Amendment, and an even greater violation of their god’s immutable utterances in their own Christian bible. Further, Americans are not amenable to having any group force their worldview, religious or otherwise, down their collective throats whether by legislation or Republican gubernatorial edict. Further, refusing to acquiesce to evangelical dictates is not bullying or persecuting Christians that have done nothing whatsoever to honor what they claim is the spirit of their hybridized Pagan holiday.
Remember, all this phony religiosity from evangelical conservatives every winter is allegedly to protect the spirit of the Christmas season and the angelic message of “goodwill toward all men and peace on Earth.” It is not just in Texas and not just during the Winter Solstice holiday that this evangelical absurdity is happening. There is a uniquely evangelical mindset nationwide that goodwill, like the Bill of Rights and American citizenship is reserved for Christian extremists, and peace means an American Christian theocracy. Both were on display as a “Texas Merry Christmas” message to Americans from a Republican governor standing on his Christianity to violate the U.S. Constitution; something that, like blatant racism and mass shootings, is the new normal in America and very few Americans seem to care.
Happy Holidays and goodwill towards all mankind and all faiths from an avowed secular humanist; even those Texas evangelicals and their theocratic governor.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.