Atheist group challenges another ETX Nativity scene - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

Atheist group challenges another ETX Nativity scene

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HOUSTON COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -

An East Texas Nativity scene has come under fire, much like the one in Athens did last year.

This Christmas, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is focusing their efforts on a Nativity scene in Crockett. They are the same organization that, from more than a thousand miles away, opposed the Nativity scene in Henderson County in 2011.

"I think it's just an expression of the values of our community, and I'm glad it's here," says First Baptist Church of Crockett Pastor Keeny Dickenson.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) argues that the religious display is a violation of the constitution because it stands on government property.

County officials defend their display, though.

"We have a long standing tradition here. We want the Nativity scene; we feel it's within our rights to have it and we'll keep it for the holiday period," says Houston County Judge Erin Ford.

It's a conflict all too familiar to another East Texas town. Last December, the FFRF fought to have Henderson County's Nativity display removed, too.

"You cannot mix government and religion. That's why this country has more religious people than any place in the world, is because government and religion have been kept separate," said Charles Caperton, the attorney representing the FFRF in Henderson County last April.

After fighting to display their own atheist sign next to the Athens Nativity scene, the FFRF was denied that privilege in October. Back then the foundation was still evaluating their next move, but standing firm.

"We live under a secular and Godless constitution that requires that government should not take sides in matters of religion and personal conscience," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, the Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-president.

While the foundation is focusing on a new Nativity scene this season, the residents in Crockett have no intentions of backing down.

"Jesus is the reason that we have this season, and this is just one other way we like to celebrate the birth of Christ," says Linnea Robinson, a Crockett resident in support of the display.

To the county, the Nativity scene is a symbol of celebration that they won't be taking down this Christmas. The Houston County Judge says their county attorney will be sending a response to the FFRF next week.


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