Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Decision To Remove The Display Has Been Nulled
A United States District Judge ruled on June 19 in favor of Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) against Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas. Judge Sam Sparks ruled that Governor Abbott violated free speech rights of the FFRF when he ordered the removal of the winter solstice and Bill of Rights Nativity from the state capitol.
The FFRF is a national body with approximately 33,000 non-religious members. In Texas, the organization counts 1,300 individuals.
The controversy began in 2015. FFRF had been approved to display a secular version of the Nativity scene. The display was visually similar to the traditional representation of the birth of Christ. However, Jesus was replaced by The Bill of Rights, and the Three Wise Men were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. The Statue of Liberty played Mary. The display carried a sign celebrating the winter solstice, the adoption of the Bill of Rights, and the importance of separating church and state.
While FFRF’s display was legal, Governor Abbott ordered its removal. He alleged the installation did not promote morals and deliberately mocked Christianity.
Judge Sparks ruled that Governor Abbott violated the First Amendment rights of FFRF. Annie Laurie Gaylor, the Co-President of FFRF, expressed happiness with this ruling. She said the decision represented a victory for non-believing citizens’ rights and free speech.
For FFRF, this ruling solidified a previous legal victory on the issue. The first ruling was in October 2017. The two judgments were needed to rule against Governor Abbott as both an individual and as an official.