Austin, TX –Today, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to the State Preservation Board ordering that a “spiteful,” “disrespectful,” and “mocking” nativity display in the Capitol sponsored by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Democratic Texas House Member Donna Howard be removed immediately. The display is currently in the basement rotunda of the Capitol as an exhibit entitled “Bill of Rights [N]ativity and Winter Solstice [D]isplay.” The exhibit features the Bill of Rights in a manger surrounded by three Founding Fathers and the Statue of Liberty worshipping the document, rather than Jesus Christ. The exhibit is a clear mockery of the religious Christmas nativity and includes a sign stating “Keep State & Church Separate.”
Gov. Abbott states in his letter dated today, “The Board has allowed and should continue to allow diverse viewpoints to be expressed in Capitol displays. But it has no obligation to approve displays that purposefully mock the sincere religious beliefs of others.
…The general public does not have a ‘direct interest’ in the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s purpose. That organization is plainly hostile to religion and desires to mock it-or, more accurately, to mock our Nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage. But it is erroneous to conflate the foundation’s private purpose with the public’s purpose. If the Foundation simply wanted to promote the Bill of Rights or even to promote the supposed virtues of secularism, its effort might have some public purpose. But it is hard to imagine how the general public ever could have a direct interest in mocking others’ religious beliefs.
In that regard, experience from the National Endowment for the Arts (“NEA”) IS INSTRUCTIVE. The NEA awarded a $15,000 grant for a photograph of a crucifix immersed in a jar of urine. Congress immediately enacted statutory changes to ensure that the NEA would not dedicate public funds to ‘art’ that violated ‘general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the American public.’ In upholding the constitutionality of the federal law, the Supreme Court of the United States emphasized that governments have no obligation to provide support for indecent or disrespectful ‘art.’ That is just as true for the State of Texas as it was for Congress. 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.
As Chairman of the State Preservation Board, I urge you to remove this display from the Capitol immediately.”
Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values stated:
“We are proud that our Governor did not hesitate to respond to this intentional effort to demean Christianity during the a time of year that is so important to Christians. We look forward to the Preservation Board following the Governor’s request to remove this inexcuable display immediately. This is just another example of the War on Christmas that our Governor and state will not stand for and neither will we.”