An East Texas county is denying an atheist organization's request to display an anti-religious banner on the courthouse lawn this Christmas.
In fall 2011, the Henderson County Courthouse Nativity scene gained national attention when the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded the county take the display down or let them put their own display up.
Last December, a banner paid for by the Freedom From Religion Foundation was placed on the courthouse lawn. It read "there are no Gods" and that "religion is but myth."
Just minutes later, Henderson County deputies took the banner down. Soon after, the Freedom From Religion Foundation started fighting to put it back up. A formal request to display the banner was submitted to the county earlier this year. This week, that request was officially denied.
"We did not feel that the banner was consistent with the theme of Christmas and our decorations that we have enjoyed for many years," says Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders.
Henderson County Officials say none of their holiday decorations consist of banners or anything with words on it.
"We did take into consideration what type of decoration, or display, they had to offer. We did ask them questions about if they had alternative Christmas decorations or displays and the response we got was 'no'," says Henderson County Attorney Clint Davis.
In a matter of weeks, the Nativity scene display will sit on the courthouse lawn where pumpkins and hay bales are now. The other three corners of the courthouse lawn will adorn secular decor, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation says Henderson County is still violating the constitution.
"We live under a secular and Godless constitution that requires that government should not take sides in matters of religion and personal conscience," says Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
Gaylor says the foundation isn't surprised the county denied their request, but they are disappointed.
"What you have here, on this corner, is the focus. It's the only focus. It's a devotional Christian scene that promotes a Christian savior is born and that you have to worship him. That's the message of the Nativity and that's not a message that the government should be giving," Gaylor says.
The county remains firm that their variety of decorations keep them in compliance with federal law.
"Overall it is a secular display. We have everything from lights to Christmas wreaths to garland... a Santa house to Santa Clause, deer, elves and gnomes," says Davis.
Judge Sanders says he and the county are very thankful for all the support they've received in their decision.
"We've gotten support from all over the United States... people that have lived here before and have contacted us about how proud they are to be from Henderson County. That really is nice," Sanders says.
"When you look at our overall objective here, which is to make our courthouse square appealing, attractive, inviting to the public... it was Judge Sanders' opinion at the end of that process and at the end of our evaluation... that the banner they had offered did not accomplish this goal," says Davis.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation says the display was brought to their attention by some of their members living in Henderson County. As to what happens next, the foundation says they are looking at all of their options.
Sunday, May 19 2013 5:19 PM EDT2013-05-19 21:19:21 GMT
DPS officials confirm that one person is dead following an accident involving a motorcycle and an 18-wheeler.Authorities say the accident happened near the intersection of County Road 2142 and County RoadMore >
DPS officials confirm that one person is dead following an accident involving a motorcycle and an 18-wheeler.More >
Tuesday, May 14 2013 10:46 PM EDT2013-05-15 02:46:58 GMT
A Henderson County home was gutted by fire on Tuesday night.Volunteer fire crews from Brownsboro, Chandler, and Dixie responded to a home in the 600 block of Hamilton Boulevard in Chandler around 6:30More >
Multiple fire crews respond to Tuesday evening fire.More >
Tuesday, May 14 2013 7:11 PM EDT2013-05-14 23:11:18 GMT
Two East Texas women have been arrested for plotting to kill a peace officer.According to Harrison County Sheriff's Office, Amanda Smith and Sydney Brook Side were arrested and charged with solicitationMore >
Two East Texas women have been arrested for plotting to kill a peace officer.More >
Saturday, May 11 2013 9:20 PM EDT2013-05-12 01:20:29 GMT
A run-off election will be needed to decided who will take the seat of Mayor in the city of Jacksonville.The current mayor, Kenneth Melvin took home 389 votes (41%), while Rob Gowin took home 426 (44%)More >
A run-off election will be needed to decided who will take the seat of Mayor in the city of Jacksonville.More >
Friday, May 10 2013 3:49 PM EDT2013-05-10 19:49:01 GMT
Multiple fire departments are fighting a fire at a building used by the Union Grove Independent School District. Fire officials confirm the building is located on the district's school campus on UnionMore >
Multiple fire departments are fighting a fire at a building used by the Union Grove Independent School District.More >
Friday, May 10 2013 12:38 PM EDT2013-05-10 16:38:43 GMT
Authorities are searching for an East Texas baby. 5-month-old Ethan Ramsey was last seen with his mother in the Marshall area on Thursday. If you have any information on where Ethan is, please contactMore >
Authorities have found an East Texas baby who went missing Thursday night.More >
Monday, May 6 2013 3:23 PM EDT2013-05-06 19:23:00 GMT
Released by the Mount Pleasant Police Department:On Sunday May 5th, 2013 at approximately 1:00 PM a kidnapping of three people occurred at Saint Michaels Catholic Church located at 1403 E. First StreetMore >
The Mount Pleasant Police Department, along with Titus County Sheriff's and DPS are searching for a 14-year-old girl, believed to be in grave danger after she was taken at knife point.More >
Sunday, May 19 2013 2:25 PM EDT2013-05-19 18:25:51 GMT
Nevada Highway Patrol is investigating a deadly crash on the I-15 near the Speedway. Three people are confirmed dead. The accident occurred around 4:30 a.m. Sunday when calls of gold Acura traveling northboundMore >
Nevada Highway Patrol is investigating a deadly crash on the I-15 near the Speedway. Three people are confirmed dead.More >
Friday, May 17 2013 7:16 PM EDT2013-05-17 23:16:53 GMT
One person has died in a crash near Harrisonville, MO, Thursday evening. The crash happened on Missouri Highway 7 and Walker Road. It involved a car and a tractor-trailer. Harrisonville is in Cass County.More >
Savannah Nash celebrated her 16th birthday last week. She died Thursday when her car slammed into a semi while she was texting during her first time driving by herself.More >
Saturday, May 18 2013 6:29 PM EDT2013-05-18 22:29:17 GMT
Family friends and classmates were distraught and angry at a candlelight vigil on Friday night for a 15-year-old who was killed over his iPad. Marcos Arenas died Thursday night when two male suspectsMore >
Family, friends and classmates were distraught and angry at a candlelight vigil on Friday night for a 15-year-old who was killed over his iPad.More >
Thursday, February 21 2013 3:40 PM EST2013-02-21 20:40:03 GMT
A woman arrested Tuesday was seen engaging in sexual acts with a pit bull while outside in a backyard and in view of neighbors, Las Vegas Metro police said. Metro Wednesday released the report describingMore >
A Las Vegas woman was arrested Tuesday after authorities caught her having sex with a pit bull in her back yard, according to Metro police.More >
Sunday, May 19 2013 1:29 AM EDT2013-05-19 05:29:19 GMT
The winning numbers for the Powerball $600 million jackpot are in and folks from all over Southern Nevada drove to Arizona and California to get their tickets and try to win big. On Saturday there wereMore >
The winning numbers for the Powerball $600 million jackpot are in and folks from all over Southern Nevada drove to Arizona and California to get their tickets and try to win big.More >
It's all about the odds, and one lone ticket in Florida has beaten them all by matching each of the numbers drawn for the highest Powerball jackpot in history at an estimated $590.5 million, lottery officials...More >
Some lucky person walked into a Publix supermarket in suburban Florida over the past few days and bought a ticket now worth an estimated $590.5 million - the highest Powerball jackpot in history.More >