Athens Review, Athens, Texas

December 6, 2012

Athiest drops suit against City

Rich Flowers
Associated Press

Athens — Patrick Greene, the San Antonio atheist who opposes the Nativity display on the Henderson County Courthouse lawn, is pulling his lawsuit against the City of Athens.

Greene filed suit in Bexar County against the city, arguing that by budgeting $10,000 for Keep Athens Beautiful, the city was participating in funding the Nativity scene.

The suit also asserted that the “Defendant's actions helped create a religiously-charged emotional environment that prompted Greg Abbott, Texas State Attorney General, to write a letter to Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders, supporting this Christian display on government property.”

Bexar County District Clerk Donna McKinney said Tuesday that Abbott’s office requested a copy of the suit after learning of the litigation.  In his message to Bexar County District Court  Wednesday, Greene stated:

“I respectfully request that, because Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott has decided to become involved in this matter, considering his professional credibility is in question because of his private personal religious belief, the lawsuit cannot be considered to have a fair chance at being ruled in an impartial manner.  The Texas Attorney General has the power to select a judge who will favor the defendant. I hereby request that the court dismiss this case immediately.  The possibility of a fair adjudication is non-existent.”

In December, 2011, Henderson County was contacted by the Freedom from Religion Foundation of Madison Wis., saying that the Nativity scene on county property was unconstitutional. The crèche stayed in place throughout the remainder of the holiday season, and was the subject of a rally on the courthouse steps on Dec. 17.

Greene first weighed in on the Nativity controversy in February, 2012, with a complaint filed with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct against Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders for not removing Precinct 1 Commissioner Joe Hall from office. Greene sought to remove Hall for comments he made in response to a letter from FFRF.

Greene later backed off from his threats to sue the county, and said he was “flabbergasted” by Christians who offered money to help him with his failing eyesight. At the time, Greene’s eye doctor told him he might have a detached retina that could lead to blindness.

Green said Tuesday that the flashes he had been experiencing in his eyesight had stopped indicating there was no detached retina. Greene said the fact that Athens church members are still sending money makes him wonder if the money was just an attempt to “buy him off” and avoid any further threat of lawsuits.

Meanwhile, Henderson County has not heard from the FFRF this season. The group continues to protest religious displays in other locations, and in a Dec. 3 press release, announced that its Winter Solstice sign had gone up in the Milwaukee courthouse.

The sign, similar to the one the group sought to have placed at the Henderson County display, states,  “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.”