Secular nativity display removed from Texas capitol after complaint from Governor Abbott

A secular “winter solstice” display has been removed from the Texas capitol basement following a complaint from Governor Greg Abbott, who in having the display removed quite literally used the government to endorse the establishment of the Christian religion.

From the Texas Tribune:

The display was a cardboard cutout of the nation’s founding fathers and the Statue of Liberty looking down at the Bill of Rights in a manger. It had been set up in the Capitol’s basement, hardly a high-traffic area, and didn’t generate much of a public response.

But after finding out about it, Abbott called it a “juvenile parody” in a letter asking the State Preservation Board to remove the exhibit.

Greg Abbott, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Greg Abbott, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The removal comes a week after Abbott publicly expressed his support for a Nativity scene outside the city of Orange municipal building. He argued that the city had a Constitutional right to display the religious imagery.

In his letter Tuesday, he cited the Constitution again.

“The Constitution does not require Texas to allow displays in its Capitol that violate general standards of decency and intentionally disrespect the beliefs and values of many of our fellow Texans,” Abbott wrote.

A host of holiday decorations are currently on display in the Capitol building, including Christmas trees and a nativity scene. The Freedom From Religion Foundation had requested and been approved to put up a display of their own. It even appears as though the board responsible for approving the display knew what it was before it went up. Only after government officials complained was it removed.

This sounds silly, but amidst the inevitable string of complaints that we hear every year from the religious right about how your choice to say “Happy Holidays” is a threat to their supposed right to hear you say “Merry Christmas,” it’s worth noting where the actual holiday-related threats to the First Amendment actually lie. This kind of equal time/equal representation claim sounds silly — Why would a secular organization want to bother with a nativity scene? Aren’t they just trolling? — until some Christian elected official like Greg Abbott goes and proves that they really can’t handle it when the government is forced to recognize that Jesus isn’t the only reason for the season.

In short, government censorship of secular nativity scenes justifies their existence.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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