With the holidays upon us, religious righters and the politicians who pander to them are looking for any excuse to scream about a mythical “war on Christmas” and dream up new “threats” to religious freedom. The latest example comes to us from the city of Orange in Southeast Texas.
Orange city officials have decided to remove a Christmas nativity scene from city hall because an organization called Orange County Atheists wanted also to post a banner nearby. The atheists’ banner doesn’t attack Christmas or religion at all. It doesn’t even object to the nativity scene. The banner (below) simply extends good wishes to people who celebrate other holidays (including Christmas) this time of year:
But some folks in Orange are offended that a public building would (gasp) recognize the holidays of various faiths and traditions along with Christmas. Here’s what a city spokesperson said in announcing the rejection of the request to post the banner:
Based on this request, the City reviewed current case law. Supreme Court decisions have tried to address this question in an array of decisions, but there is not a clear case that gives affirmative direction to displaying the Nativity scene. This makes it difficult to formulate a policy for Christmas decorations on City property. Based on this and knowing that the Constitution makes a distinction between church and state, the City will be removing the Nativity scene to avoid the legal costs associated with defending the placement of the Nativity scene and focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
Orange County Atheists didn’t demand the removal of the Christmas nativity scene. They simply wanted acknowledgment at city hall that some taxpayers celebrate other holidays and traditions as well. That certainly seems reasonable in a country that, supposedly, respects religious freedom for all. But Orange officials decided that city hall will acknowledge Christmas or nothing at all.
Not surprisingly, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blames the Orange County Atheists anyway:
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) December 15, 2015
Gov. Abbott’s tweet fueled the desired backlash from the “we’re persecuted” crowd. Check out some of the comments to his tweet. Some couldn’t resist dragging their hatred for President Obama into the “controversy” as well:
“This is absolutely ridiculous. Why is there a constant assualt on Christians!?!”
“There did not seem to be a problem with
#Christianity or Christmas until #Obamas appearance.”
“Obama hates Christians. Watch his sermon on the mound tirade on YouTube”
“There is nothing
#Texan about these animals that are atheists. Let them worship each other around their dope pipes”
So what’s the message Gov. Abbott and his supporters are really sending? It isn’t about the freedom to celebrate Christmas in the public square. No one objected to that. It’s certainly not about religious freedom — unless you’re talking about the freedom to use government to acknowledge just one religion (your own). No, the message they’re sending is pretty clear: “Religious freedom is for Christians only.”
That religious intolerance sounds pretty un-American to us.