The Henderson County Nativity Scene isn't even up yet and a Texas man is, once again, threatening to file a lawsuit to get it taken down.
Earlier this year, Patrick Greene, of San Antonio, said the Nativity scene on the courthouse lawn was unconstitutional. However, after Greene ran into medical problems, he decided not to file his lawsuit after all. Christians in Athens sent Greene and his family money to combat medical expenses. In return, he used some of that money to buy the community a star for the Nativity scene he'd come to accept.
Now, Greene is back and ready to file a lawsuit if the county doesn't follow the stipulations he's adding to the gift.
Last March, the Nativity Star was seen as an olive branch. A community of Christians and two atheists were taken aback by each other's generosity.
But, now that Nativity Star comes with a homemade sign that reads, "This star was a gift from 2 Texas Atheists. Merry Christmas!" That sign makes sure everyone who passes by the star knows it wouldn't be there if not for Patrick Greene and his wife.
"Add the sign, too, because it's an integral part of the entire season. It's goodwill between people. If they say no, we are ready to go legally for religious discrimination," says Greene.
Greene says his sign deserves to be displayed, unlike the freedom from religion foundation's sign which he called insulting. Greene says his sign has a positive message.
"What's a big thing out of a sign telling people the truth? Because the truth is, two atheists that were very appreciative of your generosity gave you the star," he says.
The Keep Athens Beautiful Committee says they had plans to use the star in their decorations on the square this year, however, now they're not sure if they'll still use it or if they'll just end up giving it back. That's a decision the committee plans to make.
"We work all year to make some changes and we spent all last week getting the wreaths ready and they're out, and now we have this gentleman who wants to put a dark shadow on it. I feel really feel bad for him," says Carol Morton, the executive director of Keep Athens Beautiful.
Each year, the county approves lawn decorations presented by Carol Morton and many members of KAB.
"We control what gets placed on our courthouse square, which has always been the case," says Henderson County Attorney Clint Davis.
Davis says decorating the square is a very organized process, not just for Christmas, but all year long. He says not just anyone can put up anything they'd like.
County judge Richard Sanders says the county has no intention to approve any signs or banners on the square.
Patrick Greene says he now believes that the money Christians in Athens gave him was just to buy him off in an effort to stop the lawsuit earlier this year. He says he plans to file his lawsuit against Henderson County on Monday.
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