A militant atheist group has failed in its bid to have a number of crosses removed from a Texas courthouse. The crosses, which are placed on each upper window of the historic building, are lit up during Christmas.
However, the Freedom From Religion Foundation insisted that five crosses displayed outside the San Jacinto County Courthouse were blatantly unconstitutional and demanded their immediate removal.
With that said, last Wednesday, The County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to keep the religious symbols. The town-wide meeting, which had to be moved to accommodate some 600 patrons (the entire town has a population of just 900), saw members of the public express their opinions for three solid hours.
In the end, despite FFRF’s best efforts, the Commissioners decided that the symbols were not harming anyone.
FFRF was furious.
“These crosses unabashedly create the perception of government endorsement of Christianity,” an attorney for Wisconsin-based organization said a letter to the local judge, Fritz Faulkner.
The group noted that a “concerned Coldspring resident” reported the crosses, insisting that they were “a blatant violation of the Establishment clause.”
Most local residents took a very different view, however. “If it offends them, close your eyes when you go by,” David Blevins told Click2Houston. “If you don’t like it, don’t look at it.”
In response to the victory, local Republican Party chairman Dwayne Wright told Todd Starnes this was his town’s David vs. Goliath moment.
“We absolutely identify with David’s plight and we’re willing to toss that rock,” he stated.
“Even a small, tiny speck of a community – when you come together and you share conservative principles – you can push back against any of these anti-religious groups,” Wright added. “We don’t need freedom from religion. We need freedom of religion.”
Texas Assistant Attorney General weighs in
In a letter of support sent to the town’s officials, Texas First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer gave them free rein to “reject FFRF’s demand to impose its anti-religion bias against San Jacinto County.”
“We want to make it clear that your county may display historical religious symbols, like crosses, without violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” Mateer explained.
“On occasion, FFRF will file a lawsuit to try to force government to purge all acknowledgment of religion,” Mateer added, noting that “if that occurs, we look forward to supporting your lawful decision to retain the crosses.”