Officials in Cherokee County, Texas have been threatened with a lawsuit by an atheist group for rejecting a local resident’s appeal to set up a secular display next to a Christian nativity scene. The American Humanist Association (AHA) wrote a letter to the county commission and County Judge Chris Davis on November 24, saying the religious display at the county courthouse amounts to the violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. They also demanded that the display be brought down.
“If they want a fight, then we’ll have one,” said Davis. “We have other Christmas displays up around the courthouse and do other stuff on other holidays.”
The AHA sent the letter after local resident Daniel Ross brought the incident to their notice. Ross had reportedly sent an email to the county commission as well as Davis earlier this month, saying the Christian display did not necessarily include non-Christian residents. Thus, he sought permission to install signboards commemorating HumanLight, which is a secular holiday that is observed on December 23, at the same spot.
“HumanLight illuminates a positive, secular vision of a happy, just and peaceful future for our world, a future which people can build by working together, drawing on the best of our human capacities,” Ross wrote. “Thank you for taking your time to read this and let me know what time frame would be best to have a sign up next to the manger.”
However, Ross was stunned when he received a stern dismissal from county commissioner Katherine Pinotti.
“December 23rd is merely a date selected by your organization to make a political statement of your choice not to celebrate traditional Christian beliefs,” Pinotti stated. “Perhaps you should consider choosing another time of the year to demonstrate your secular support instead of attempting to infiltrate the Christmas holiday with a singular purpose to destroy and denigrate the beliefs of others. Try to live and let live.”
Davis told the media that the commission was yet to meet with regards to this particular issue, while adding that he had no objection to Pinotti expressing her personal opinion.
However, AHA believes Pinotti’s response was constitutionally irrelevant, irrespective of whether she was speaking on behalf of the commission or herself. Additionally, the group threatened to file a federal lawsuit against the commission if the Nativity scene was not brought down at the earliest possible time.
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