We first received a phone call from an Athens resident, someone who isn’t a member of our organisation, who was looking for help. We saw a photo of the nativity and realised that it was standing alone on government property. It is against the law for the government to mount a display that focuses solely on religion. When we asked, the local authorities said it had been put up by a group, which signified to us that the land was being used as a public forum. We’re not saying destroy all nativity scenes, we’re just saying it doesn’t belong on government property, and if it does, that space needs to be opened up to different viewpoints.
We gave a banner to one of our complainants in Athens, but a banner doesn’t really cut it for balancing the visual of a nativity scene. So we’ve asked Henderson County to permit us to display what we call a ‘natural nativity’ on the grounds next year. Instead of a baby Jesus, there’s a black baby girl for equality. In the place of the wise men, there are truly wise historical figures such as Darwin, Einstein, Emma Goldman and Mark Twain.
I don’t know how they got 5,000 people into a town of 12,000 to rally against us. We’ve never dealt with people like this before. For a week after we sent out our letter, our phone lines were tied up with prank calls who said things like ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ or worse. We’ve been branded as un-American, and as meddling in Texan affairs when all we’ve been doing is representing our members and complainants.”