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Kim Walker (right) signs a petition to keep the nativity scene in front of the County Courthouse. Tracie Lyda spent about four hours Wednesday collecting the signatures.

It started as a whisper.

But on social media Web sites, it often doesn’t take long for things to come to a full roar.

Among The Malakoff News’s Tuesday morning Facebook posts was an item informing readers that an anonymous resident had complained about the nativity scene located on the southeast corner of the Henderson County Courthouse square.

That complaint went to the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation — which in turn contacted the county and demanded in a letter dated December 1 that the nativity scene that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ be removed.

As the couty mulls its next move — County Judge Richard Sanders said County Attorney Clint Davis is looking into legal cases and other information in order to craft a response — area pastors are mobilizing.

On Wednesday morning, four area pastors — Nathan Lorick of First Baptist Malakoff, Robert Welch of Rock Hill Baptist in Brownsboro,  Eric Graham of Sand Springs Baptist Church in Athens and Derek Rogers, a county resident who pastors a church in Corsicana — met to discuss a response.

At their meeting, the pastors issued a call to all area pastors to meet Friday at 9 a.m. at Sand Springs Baptist Church. That meeting is intended to hammer down details for a Nativity Rally set for Saturday, December 17.

Meanwhile, as a standoff may or may not be building in the real world, lines in cyberspace were drawn almost immediately upon release of the news.

In the span of about an hour, The News’s Facebook site — which broke the story — had received hundreds of comments ranging from ridiculous to reasonable.

Overwhelmingly, posters spoke out in support of keeping the nativity scene.

“Jesus is the reason for the season,” one woman posted. “...If some do not like it, look the other way ...”

“We have all been caught off guard by this,” another wrote. “Before this year it has never been an issue that I know of here. I am praying!”

Others said they were not offended — including several who are Jewish — but offered that the nativity scene could be moved to Ginger’s Park on the west side of the square or to a nearby business. Athens Screen Printing, located just to the southeast of the square, was among the first to offer its storefront if the nativity scene is taken down.

One woman posted that people “need to shut up and stop whining about this. If no other religious things are allowed to be up, then no Christian things (sic) should be up either.”

Other news posted to the site, ranging from guilty verdicts to talk of possible snow, got strangled by the deluge of comments regarding the issue.

“Why are so many people trying to take Christ out of Christmas?” one person asked.

“Jesus is the reason for the season!” proclaimed one poster.

“Santa Claus,” another deadpanned, “will be next.”

Still others bypassed the debate altogether while still letting their opinion be known.

“Take it, don’t take it,” an area educator posted. “Jesus is my Lord and Savior and you can do nothing to change it.

“Oh and by the way, bless you.”

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