Athens Review, Athens, Texas

October 25, 2012

County judge denies FFRF’s request

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — The Freedom From Religion Foundation got its answer concerning its request to place a banner on the Henderson County Courthouse square, Wednesday — denied.

In April, the FFRF, after claiming that the Nativity scene displayed on the southeast corner of the courthouse square was illegal, asked the county for permission to place a banner in the 2012 Christmas Holiday season display.

The banner would display the following wording:

“At this season of the Winter Solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.  There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth, and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

County Judge Richard Sanders said he sent the FFRF his response in a short e-mail.

“I  basically just said, after reviewing their request and answers to the questions that they provided, that I had made a decision to deny the request,” Sanders said.

The Commissioners Court approved a policy earlier this year that gives the county judge the authority to make decisions concerning holiday displays at the courthouse, and other county-owned grounds.

“If the commissioners should have a disagreement with a decision, they can petition it, and come before the court,” Sanders said. “But I have the authority to make the decision on my own.”

Sanders said the decorations around the square this Christmas season will be essentially the same as the ones on display the past few years.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, said the County’s response seemed like a forgone conclusion.

“They certainly put us through our paces, and it seems that they’ve just been playing with playing with us all along,” Gaylor said.

The FFRF was required to fill out a form answering questions about the banner, such as “How did you chose this wording?” and “How does this celebrate the Christmas season?”

Gaylor said the county asked if the FFRF would consider alternate wording to the sign, and the county’s denial of its request was a form of censorship.

The FFRF is considering what its next step will be.

  “We’re looking at our options,” Gaylor said. “They’ve really been giving us the run-around from the beginning.”