Non-traditional nativity display removed from Capitol

Some say the display mocks Christianity.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is calling a non-traditional nativity scene at the Capitol a "mockery" of Christianity. That display has been removed just days before Christmas.

The nativity scene featured the Bill of Rights. Although it had permission to be there through the holiday, Abbott has pulled the plug.

A nativity display is something you often see during Christmas but this one is gaining a lot of criticism.

"This was a really indecent way to promote an agenda," says Nicole Hudgens, Texas Values.

The exhibit features the Bill of Rights in a manger surrounded by three Founding Fathers and the Statue of Liberty. They're shown worshipping the document, rather than Jesus Christ. It had been placed in the basement rotunda of the Capitol on December 18th.

On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott ordered that it be removed. It's something that religious rights group, Texas Values, agrees with.

"If you want to promote the Bill of Rights, that is something I can totally back up. But to do it in a way that mocks the Christian faith, is not only historically inaccurate but is not going to be in direct public interest," says Hudgens.

Governor Abbott sent a letter to the State Preservation Board saying they have "no obligation to approve displays that purposefully mock the sincere religious beliefs of others."

He also went on to say "the exhibit does not educate" the public. Instead it "promotes ignorance and falsehood as it suggests that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson worshipped the Bill of Rights in the place of Jesus."

"Governor Abbott, as a former attorney general, should be well aware that the government cannot censor any display based on its viewpoint. That's exactly what he's done here. He's personally offended that atheists exist and that we want an equal opportunity to express our viewpoint in the Capitol, so he censored our display. It's illegal and inappropriate," says Sam Grover, Freedom from Religion Foundation.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is one sponsor of the display. They prefer that the government remain neutral toward religion. Democratic Texas House Member Donna Howard is another sponsor. She says there was a lot of discussion at the Capitol this past session about freedom of religious expression - and this could be a setback.

"This, unfortunately to me, is going in the opposite direction. We're certainly going down a slippery slope if we start determining whose beliefs have the right to be protected under the 1st amendment and whose don't," says Donna Howard, Texas House Member.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is waiting for a response from the board to see if they will remedy the situation.

They are also considering whether to pursue legal action.
 

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