(Photo: The Athens Review)
A thousand or more people organized by a coalition of about 70 pastors are expected at a rally Saturday in support of a Texas county courthouse nativity display that is being challenged by an atheists group as unconstitutional.
The “Rally for the Nativity” event planned for the Henderson County Courthouse located in Athens is being spearheaded by Pastor Nathan Lorick of First Baptist Church in Malakoff, a neighboring town off Highway 31.
Lorick told The Christian Post Thursday that people are coming to the noon-time rally from as far away as Amarillo, which is a seven to eight hour drive. He said he has received word that supporters are coming from other states, such as Oklahoma and Louisiana, as well.
Lorick is joined by pastors and Christians who are fed up with efforts by atheist groups to remove Christmas nativity scenes from public squares. They have been rallying behind Henderson County’s decision to defend their manger display on the courthouse lawn from a potential lawsuit.
Henderson County officials received a threatening letter earlier this month from the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. FFRF asked that the county in east Texas remove the display from the courthouse lawn.
The group appears to have failed in its plan to also display a banner next to the nativity scene that states, “At this Season of the Winter Solstice, LET REASON PREVAIL.” The banner further describes religion as a “myth and superstition.”
Although the banner was scheduled by the FFRF to be displayed at the courthouse earlier this week, it hung only briefly on a tree on the lawn before being taken down by a county law enforcement agent. Henderson County officials said the group is required to formally make a request to display the banner before a county commission, the Athens Review reported. The commission is scheduled to meet Dec. 20.
The claim by the atheists group that the nativity scene displayed on government property is violating a “separation of church and state” law is a false interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, say many Christians and historians.
“First of all, [the separation of] church and state is not found in the Constitution. As far as legal issues, we believe we are within our constitutional right. We have not excluded any other religion,” Lorick told CP this week.
“The point that I’m standing on is that we are seeing persecution on Christianity on the rise in America and I think there’s some great examples of that even recently, one being what we are going through,” he said. “Christianity for far too long has been the silent majority. We need to stand up and speak up in love, but with conviction. We believe enough in our God and we believe enough in our faith that we need to take a stand for what we believe in."
Rally organizers said that Saturday's event will include “patriotic and Christmas songs, prayer and discussion about several issues facing county residents – including drug abuse, child abuse and poverty,” according to the Review.
Lorick has been on a frenzied media interview schedule beginning last week with many in the press focusing on the increased amount of pressure by atheists during recent Christmas seasons to eliminate the traditional symbols of the Christian faith from the public square.
“My life has been crazy over the last week, but it has been very fulfilling knowing that we are standing up to defend the faith we so deeply believe in,” Lorick said.
He has not heard about any planned protests of the rally on Saturday, but said, “We welcome anyone to come and hear the Gospel.”