Governor Abbott's Removal of Nativity Scene Deemed Censorship by Federal Judge

AUSTIN, TX - A federal judge ruled that Governor Greg Abbott engaged in censorship when he ordered a satirical nativity scene be removed from the Texas State Capitol in December of 2015.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled, Abbott violated a “clearly established First Amendment right to be free from viewpoint discrimination in a limited public forum.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation had a display in the capitol depicting three of the founding fathers next to the Statue of Liberty standing over the Bill of Rights in a manger. 

Abbott asked the State Preservation Board to remove the nativity.  Abbott called it “juvenile” and “tasteless sarcasm.”

“The exhibit promotes ignorance and falsehood insofar as it suggests that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson worshiped (or would worship) the bill of rights in the place of Jesus,” Abbott wrote a letter to the State Preservation Board.

“[The] Constitution does not require Texas to allow displays in its Capitol that violate general standards of decency and intentionally disrespect the beliefs and values of many of our fellow Texans,” Abbott said.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit in early 2016.

FFRF said after the ruling, “If the government creates public forums, and permits Christian Nativities in them, there must be room at the inn for the rest of us.”

The federal judge also ruled that FFRF can depose Abbott about why he had the display removed.

Abbott indicated via social media on Monday that the ruling will be appealed. 


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