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Above, the crowd at the nativity rally was the largest scene at the courthouse in many years, according to county officials.

An estimated crowd of more than 5,000 attended a rally on the Henderson County Courthouse lawn Saturday in response to recent efforts to get county officials to remove the nativity scene on the southeast side of the square.

By the end of the Nativity rally, it was clear from the words of the rally’s speakers that they have higher goals than saving the inanimate figures that spurred the controversy.

“We are seeing unfold before our very eyes, the beginning of persecution of Christianity in our nation,” First Baptist Church Malakoff Pastor Nathan Lorick said. “It seems it is no longer acceptable to express and exhibit the doctrines of our faith in the nation that was founded upon those same doctrines. That is why thousands are here today.”

The rally grew out of the controversy that arose when Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wis. sent a letter to county officials Dec. 1. The letter stated that it was written on behalf of a Henderson County resident who objected to the display on grounds that it was religious in nature, and a violation of a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The sea of people that gathered in response to the FFRF efforts was overwhelmingly in support of the nativity scene. The audience alternately applauded and cheered approval of the speakers. Any dissenters that might have been present were quiet, as the four pastors who organized the rally spoke during the hour-long event.

“The stage is set, and the world watches as this small East Texas town displays together what America is all about,” Lorick said. “ This message has resonated in the hearts of Christians around the world. This is not because of a season or a symbol of our faith, No, those come and go. But because of our God who is sovereign and supreme.”

Lorick thanked the Henderson County and Athens government officials who have refused to remove the manger scene in the face of the complaints.

Derrick Rogers, who pastors in Corsicana, but lives in Henderson County,  said Christians need to present a unified voice against those who seek to keep them on the fringe of public life.

“It’s time that for us to stand together, and protect the very principals that made this nation great from its birth. We can no longer sit idly by, while those who choose not to believe, fight to take God out of America,” Rogers said. “Never has there been a time more important for us to join together that our Children and our Children’s children may be able to worship the only true and living God, and boldly proclaim his name without fear of reservation.”

Robert Welch of Rock Hill Baptist Church near Brownsboro focused on the importance of the birth that the manger scene commemorates.

“We stand here today, not because we believe in a nativity scene, but because we believe in the one the nativity scene represents,” Welch said. “Before the trees, before the lights, before the gingerbread men, before the presents and believe it or not–even before Santa Claus–God became a man.”

Attempts by FFRF to get a banner placed on the courthouse lawn offering a non-Christian message were not successful.

The item has not come before Commissioners Court, and is not on the agenda for Tuesday, the last meeting before Christmas.


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