Last December, because their city hall had a Nativity scene out front, the Orange County Atheists of Texas decided it was only fair to request a display of their own. It was a simple banner that said “Happy Holidays” (no matter what you believe):
That peaceful coexistence turned out to be out of the question. Instead of letting the banner go up, giving the atheists a symbolic victory, city officials decided they’d rather just take down the Nativity.
And that’s fine. As long as one religious belief wasn’t being promoted while others were rejected, the city was well within its legal bounds.
This year, however, city officials went to desperate lengths to prevent atheists from ruining their fun again. Instead of allowing outside groups representing religious and non-religious people to donate displays — as is usually the case with open forums — they chose to spend $20,000 of taxpayer money to buy a giant Nativity scene… and surround it with a few secular and non-Christian items to give the impression that this wasn’t about promoting one religion… (even though it totally was).
Let me repeat that: They chose to spend $20,000 to prevent atheists from putting up a harmless banner next to their preferred displays.
That’s why you have to at least appreciate this editorial from the Beaumont Enterprise, which says the Orange officials’ actions would make the Grinch proud.
In a move that would have done the grumpy green one proud, the city froze out the Orange County Atheists of Texas from its Christmas display — again.
For good measure, the Orange City Council approved the display “without signage.” Coincidentally, the only group contemplating “signage” was the atheists.
These are thorny issues in a country (and county) where most people are Christians and Dec. 25 has been a federal holiday for decades. But if any entity should be supporting outreach, it should be government.
After all, sinners pay taxes as well as saints. It should have been possible to work out a compromise that allowed the “signage” somewhere.
Make no mistake, this rule change has everything to do with making sure atheists don’t get a chance to put up a secular display. They couldn’t care less about celebrating the holidays.
I asked the Orange County Atheists of Texas if they had any plans to fight back — perhaps by applying to put up a display that’s not a sign. They’re not going to do that. Instead, they’re going to set up a fundraiser to offset the money the city is wasting on this silly battle. They plan to donate whatever is raised to charity.
I’ll post an update whenever that charity is live.
(Thanks to Amber for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)