The GOP loves to tout their love of the Constitution and all things having any relation to “the founding fathers.” Apparently, however, that “love” of the Constitution doesn’t extend into any actual knowledge about the Constitution. In Texas, they are allowed to have nativity scenes and other religious symbols in celebration of holidays displayed on public property. All the courts have asked for is for the Texas local governments to give the same free speech right to people who aren’t Christians.
That is a bridge too far, according to Republican Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, and many of his colleagues and supporters. A display made by people who prefer government and religion be kept separate has been banished by the almighty Governor.
Was the display featuring George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin with the Statue of Liberty and the Bill of Rights from our Constitution done in some lewd or disrespectful way? No. the founders, as well as Lady Liberty and our cherished document all appear as we would commonly perceive them. There is no “bad behavior” or anything crass in the display offered by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) in celebration of the Winter Solstice.
It is often said that the only real test of “freedom of speech” is when speech arises that we despise. If one cannot tolerate speech that they disagree with, no matter how vehemently, then there is no real freedom at all. The Texas governor and company have proven that here in spades.
There is no freedom in Texas. The freedom of speech does not exist in that state. The government, specifically the GOP led by Governor Abbott, has the only and final say.
The display, which was buried in an obscure area in the basement of the Capitol building was called ‘tasteless’ by the Governor before he used his overwhelming force of the state to have it removed — despite the display meeting ALL the requirements to be displayed there and getting all required approvals before being put up.
What exactly is so offensive to Abbott and his cohorts? The display has the founders and Lady Liberty standing around a bill of rights in a manger / crib — thus, for them, it is abhorrent. They claim the founders are “worshipping” the piece of paper. Personally, I look at the display (shown in the video below) and see no worshipping going on. To me, they look as if they are admiring the paper, being respectful towards it — but I see no one overtly praying or doing any of the ‘worship’ they describe.
Another argument a government spokesperson made was that the display was “historically inaccurate.” I think the same could be said for the Nativity scene. We can start with the often “blond haired, blue eyed” Jesus often shown and go all the way to where as many doubt whether Christ even existed as a person.
More importantly, than my or Governor Abbott’s perception though is our freedom of speech. As I mentioned before, if that freedom cannot stand up to the test of tolerating speech one disagrees with, then there really is no freedom at all — especially when the “decider” runs the state.
Conservatives and republicans in Texas want their Christian nativity scenes displayed on Capitol grounds on a “freedom of speech” level. They argued to the courts that their freedom of speech trumped all that disagreed with them and they had the right to put their displays on government property. All the courts asked in return was that they give the same right in return. The Texas GOP agreed in the courts to comply but have failed on more than one occasion to live up to that promise in actual practice. Not only here, but last year in the Texas town of Orange, they removed their nativity scene just so they could take down a “competing” atheist display. They basically took their ball and went home. Apparently, according to Texas GOP Christians, any competing voice is inherently a mocking voice.
Talk about thin skinned…I thought Texans were supposed to be tough?
This year, and under the might of the full state of Texas, the GOP has decided to arbitrarily squash a competing voice using the full might of the government to do it.
FFRF is fighting back, however.
“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 organization is awaiting a response from the governing board that oversees and approves such displays before deciding on further action. If the display is not put back, I think it is safe to say this issue will be back in the courts.
Check out a really slanted report from a local Fox affiliate in Texas;
What really bothers me here is the charge that the founders are “worshipping” the Bill of Rights. When I look, I see no hands folded, no looking to the heavens and no one on both knees. Washington is on one knee, so I guess one could speculate that he is proposing to the paper or perhaps fitting it for shoes — but worshipping? No.
Of course, the same people who are making the “worshipping” accusations, get their news from people who can’t even spell “censor,” so they can’t very well be expected to understand it.