Nativity Scene Is a ‘Superstition,’ Says Atheist Group, But Santa Can Stay


The Freedom From Religion Foundation has taken offense with a nativity scene displayed outside a courthouse in downtown Athens, Texas.

The Keep Athens Beautiful Committee has been putting up the nativity scene since 2002, and County Judge Richard Sanders says it's not violating any law, according to ABC News affiliate KBMT.

"Because we have all the other decorations, it's legal," Sanders said. "Our county attorney has looked into it."

A Henderson County resident complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist group, and the foundation notified the committee that the nativity scene was in violation of federal law. The foundation asked for the baby Jesus to be removed, or for a sign to be put up next to his crib that would read : "At this season of the winter solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

But while some believe Santa is "but myth and superstition," no one has asked for a sign to be placed next to him, clarifying his non-existence. The town has several other seasonal decorations up, such as reindeer, garden gnomes and snowmen, but the nativity scene is the only decoration has been criticized as a religious symbol. As for Santa, he's more of a tradition than a religious icon, so the foundation has not taken issue with him.

Henderson County Commissioner Joe Hall says he'll fight to keep the nativity scene in place.

"Don't come down here and tell me there is no God. This nation is a Christian nation regardless of what those fruit loops and fruitcakes in Washington D.C. say. Hell will freeze over before I vote to have it removed," Hall said.

Pastor Nathan Lorick of First Baptist Church in Malakoff, about 10 miles from Athens, said it is time to stand up and speak up in defense of Christianity, which is the majority in Athens.

"I hope this is a platform all across the nation that says, let's take America back," he said.

Multiple U.S. Supreme Court cases have dealt with similar controversies. Most recently, in 2010, in the midst of the Christmas tree vs. holiday bush debate, Salazar v. Buono, the justices ruled that a cross to honor veterans  placed in 1934 on a rock located in a national park in southeastern California could remain in place.

ABC News affiliate KBMT contributed to this report.