Feb

17

Atheist threatens county with lawsuit

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : February 17, 2012

By Michael V. Hannigan

A San Antonio atheist recently became the newest participant in Henderson County’s apparently-not-confined-to-Christmas nativity scene controversy.

Patrick Greene this week emailed a letter to all members of Commissioners’ Court threatening a lawsuit if the nativity scene is not moved to private property. In an email interview with The Malakoff News, Greene said, “… If they do not respond to my email by … Monday, February 20, 2012, I will assume that they have no intention of responding at all. In which case I will begin filling out the necessary forms, and file the lawsuit on the day they put up the nativity display.”

When asked his reasons for becoming involved, Greene said “to show that Christianity does not rule my state of Texas, the Constitution does. Christianity is only one of the many faiths represented in this state.”

This is not the first time Greene has taken such a stance on a church-state issue and, if it goes that far, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s filed a lawsuit based on his beliefs. Greene has a history of activism going back to at least 1998, when he challenged – and changed – the way the city of Ontario, California stored and cared for a series of nativity scenes. He has also twice filed lawsuits against the San Antonio mayor’s office for prayer-related reasons, and has pursued legal action against other entities.

County officials are taking Greene seriously and declined to comment this week because of the threatened lawsuit. The county still believes its position regarding the nativity is correct, however.

The local controversy began in December when the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) first demanded the county remove a nativity scene from the Christmas decorations on the courthouse lawn. The group later shifted its focus to getting an atheist banner displayed alongside the nativity, an effort that is expected to continue in March or April. (Greene is not a member of the FFRF.)

The county declined to remove the nativity, with County Attorney Clint Davis writing, “Henderson County believes that it is in complete compliance with the requirements of the Constitution and acting very much in accord with prior U.S. Supreme Court rulings.”

The reaction from some area Christians pushed First Baptist Church of Malakoff Pastor Dr. Nathan Lorick and County Judge Richard Sanders onto the national stage and prompted a local rally which drew an estimated 5,000 to the courthouse.
That rally is what caught Greene’s attention when he came across the story last week.

“I saw an article referring to the scene, and read all I could find, including the entire six-part video on Youtube about the rally,” he said. “I was stunned to see the flagrant way that the Constitution was being totally ignored by all these people. It was as if the Constitution was being trampled on with shear glee…. I felt that I had to step into this matter with both feet.”

Greene’s original plan was to have an anti-nativity rally on Dec. 21, which he announced last week in a letter to the editor (see Page 2A). He will have to go through the county to reserve the courthouse lawn, but officials said it is too early to hear that request. The county usually hears those type of items about 90 days before an event.

Greene is still planning to hold the rally, but said he raised the ante this week with the lawsuit because of Commissioner Joe Hall.

In addition to being Pct. 1 commissioner, Hall is a Baptist pastor. He is outspoken about his Christianity, and not only in connection with the nativity scene. Hall consistently votes no on any alcohol election issue which comes before Commissioners’ Court based on his faith, despite the fact commissioners have no power to stop alcohol elections.

The commissioner definitely irked Greene, who calls himself an American Atheist.
In an email to Hall, Greene wrote, “You stated that this is a ‘Christian’ country. I do not understand how a government official could take sides like that.”

When thinking about the issue, Greene told The Malakoff News, “(Hall) was by far the worst, because he was a county government official, whose job is to never take sides in matters of religion.”

For his part, Hall said this week he was only one commissioner and did not have the authority to speak for the entire Commissioners’ Court, so what he said cannot be construed as an official statement. He also said he was a Christian before he became commissioner, he’ll be a Christian afterward, and that is what comes first for him.

Greene also said he will not be satisfied if the FFRF gets to display its banner.
“I think they (the FFRF) are copping out of their responsibility to the Constitution,” he said. “Even if they do get permission to put up their banner, what is going to keep someone from damaging it, or spraying graffiti on it, or covering up the banner. I saw everyone in the rally on Youtube; they would rather burn the banner than allow an atheist sign to be put up.”

Greene did not confine his letters to just county officials. He has also emailed Keep Athens Beautiful, the Athens Chamber of Commerce, several area pastors, and area newspapers.

Comments (33)

  1. [...] atheist who threatened to sue Henderson County, Texas, over a nativity scene displayed on its courthouse steps last winter is sparking controversy once again. But this time, [...]

  2. [...] Scene, Sparks New Controversy November 21, 2012 11:18 pm 0 commentsFiled under: NewsAn atheist who threatened to sue Henderson County, Texas, over a nativity scene displayed on its courthouse steps last winter is sparking controversy once again. But this time, [...]

  3. [...] atheist who threatened to sue Henderson County, Texas, over a nativity scene displayed on its courthouse steps last winter is sparking controversy once again. But this time, [...]

  4. [...] atheist who threatened to sue Henderson County, Texas, over a nativity scene displayed on its courthouse steps last winter is sparking controversy once again. But this time, [...]

  5. [...] an Air Force veteran from San Antonio who has a history of activism related to atheist causes, threatened in February to file a lawsuit against Henderson County, Texas, if they did not remove a Nativity scene in front of the courthouse, Malakoff News [...]

  6. [...] while he was going through extensive eye treatment.You may remember that earlier this year, Greene was part of a fight against a Nativity scene that had been set up outside the courthouse in the town of Athens, Texas, and he had even [...]

  7. [...] an Air Force veteran from San Antonio who has a history of activism related to atheist causes, threatened in February to file a lawsuit against Henderson County, Texas, if they did not remove a Nativity scene in front of the courthouse, Malakoff News [...]

  8. [...] an Air Force veteran from San Antonio who has a history of activism related to atheist causes, threatened in February to file a lawsuit against Henderson County, Texas, if they did not remove a Nativity scene in front of the courthouse, Malakoff News [...]

  9. [...] condition, wrote a letter to members of the Henderson County Commissioner’s Court in February threatening a lawsuit if they did not move a Nativity scene from court property, the Malakoff News reported. [...]

  10. [...] condition, wrote a letter to members of the Henderson County Commissioner’s Court in February threatening a lawsuit if they did not move a Nativity scene from court property, the Malakoff News [...]

  11. [...] eye condition, wrote a minute to members of a Henderson County Commissioner’s Court in Feb threatening a lawsuit if they did pierce a Nativity stage from justice property, a Malakoff News [...]

  12. [...] wrote a letter to members of the Henderson County Commissioner’s Court in February threatening a lawsuit if they did move a Nativity scene from court property, the Malakoff News reported.The Nativity scene had been a source of controversy since it was [...]

  13. [...] condition, wrote a letter to members of the Henderson County Commissioner’s Court in February threatening a lawsuit if they did move a Nativity scene from court property, the Malakoff News reported.The Nativity scene had been a source of controversy since it was [...]

  14. [...] five hours north of his San Antonio home had placed a nativity on the courthouse square, he vowed to file suit if they did it again, the Malakoff News reported. An atheist, Greene did not believe the religious symbol of Christmas [...]

  15. [...] Greene, an atheist from San Antonio, told county officials that if they did it again, he would file a lawsuit against them.Patrick Greene with his cat (The Athens Review)Greene said, “… If they do not respond to my [...]

  16. [...] is the San Antonio atheist who stepped into the debate in February, promising to sue the county if it put the nativity scene up on the Courthouse lawn next Christmas. [...]

  17. [...] Atheist threatens county with lawsuit [...]

  18. Charles Coker said on 25-02-2012

    They want it moved to private property. Doesn’t the court house lawn belong to the people of Henderson county? Lets take a vote on it and see how the people of Henderson county feel about it. How can someone from another state or another part of Texas come here and tell us what we can or cannot display on the court hose lawn.

  19. Joel Knox said on 24-02-2012

    So, Mr. Greene will be in Athens in December…I’m pretty sure there are going to be a LOT of people there to meet him…including myself…

  20. Sharon Brown said on 22-02-2012

    HHHMMMMM—Very Interesting. Please read. I don’t think we have anything to worry about Christians :)
    http://www.allabouthistory.org/separation-of-church-and-state.htm

  21. Darren said on 21-02-2012

    Show me in the Constitution where it says seperation of church and state.

  22. Koeh said on 20-02-2012

    It is only right that we honor our Constitution, which makes no mention of a supernatural deity or deities, unlike the ruling documents of, e.g. Iran. We all benefit when there is no entanglement of the state with specific (e.g. Judeo-Christian, Islam, Mormon, Hindu, etc) religious beliefs. Doing so invites balkanization of America. As the Treaty of Tripoli said, America is in no manner a “Christian” nation, and we do best not to aim in that, or any other religious direction.

  23. Brenda said on 18-02-2012

    Forgot to add Thank You Mr. Greene!

  24. Brenda said on 18-02-2012

    Separation of Church and State!!! Simple as that.

  25. [...] here to see the original: Atheist threatens county with lawsuit – Malakoff News This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged activism-going, first-time, greene, [...]

  26. dilberth said on 17-02-2012

    I figured correctly that Commissioner Hall had some breed of dog in this fight. He is a pastor for the sheep. Of course he wants to keep the big lie going that some savior was born on this date because it’s in his best interest. Should it come to pass that he can no longer continue to put up this perfectly dreadful manger scene, he could be out a lot of sheep.

    • Cindy said on 17-02-2012

      The manger scene has been up for years and we all kniw what this depicts. Now, on to the other items placed on the square…..can you tell me what part they play in Christianity? The people throwing a tantrum over the manger scene don’t say much about the rest of the decor, do you? Also, there are no anti- other religion posters on the square. No one said you must believe in the Bible or Jesus…so why are you offended? The actions of the idiot that placed the sign on the tree show what kind of people we are dealing with! The sign is doing nothing but talking poorly of another religion and stating it’s not right to believe that way. The way I see it, your group just wants everyone believing your way is the right way.

      • Nude0007 said on 19-02-2012

        Dear Cindy, you are missing the point. The manger should never have been allowed up. Separation of church and state demands that no religion should be pushed (displayed) on government property. It should have been questioned and removed long ago. It is not an attack on your religion, but it is denying your religion to be showcased above any other. The reason people are offended is because this is totally unfair to other religions or no religion at all. If instead of a manger, it were a statue of Krishna, would you be for or against its removal?
        The atheist group want equal treatment under the law, so their way IS right. Oh, and calling people idiots because they stand up for fairness and equality shows what kind of people you are.

        • jay said on 27-02-2012

          Good point,,,,best one I’ve read on this matter. I have no opinion on it either way. I’ve always been “to each his own” kind of guy. Of course, if “their” religion was being “pushed” on me in another way, in a way that would or could actually hurt me, I would have a problem with it, and would fight for my rights as it seems the atheists are doing.

  27. Kenneth Nahigian said on 17-02-2012

    I respect Patrick Greene for his principled stand. Religious expression does not need a captive audience, and should not require the bludgeon of government force behind it. If Christianity can only flourish as a parasite on public resources, what does this say about Christianity?

  28. Martin Stone said on 17-02-2012

    Sadly, I am not surprised by the headline nor charachterization of the ‘Atheist’ in question in this article. Seems to – why is it that this story isn’t about how the local government/theocrats have assulted and viloated the consitiution – are are intent on continuing to do so.

    Mr Greene seems to be the only brave person who is willing to take a stand for our shared Constitutional birthrights as written in the Bill of RIghts. Especially the right not to be forced to fund religions (or their displays) with public tax monies.

    Guess fairness and accuracy is too much to expect from a newsource which panders to it’s readers.

    • Michael V. Hannigan said on 17-02-2012

      Actually, Mr. Greene emailed to thank me for the story, which he called “absolutely perfect.” …. the simple reason for the story being written in this manner is that Mr. Greene is the protagonist (for want of a better word) in this situation.

  29. [...] This particular activist has a long history of filing lawsuits and gaining concessions. Learn more: The Malakoff News tells why county officials are taking this guy seriously, and why he’s so mad in [...]

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