ATHENS, Texas (BP) -- The estimated 5,000 people who attended a rally in support of an embattled nativity scene in Henderson County, Texas, heard more than just sentiment bemoaning the efforts of secularists to remove religious symbols from public spaces.
They also heard the Gospel.
The East Texas display is one of a dozen nativity scenes that the [atheist group] is working to eliminate.
The Saturday (Dec. 17) rally in Athens, Texas, took place more than two weeks after the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), at the behest of an anonymous Henderson County resident, sent a letter to county officials stating that the religious display on the courthouse lawn was in violation of a United States Supreme Court decision and should be removed from county property.
County Judge Richard Sanders and a majority of Henderson County commissioners have opposed moving the nativity scene, which is owned by a civic group called Light Up Athens.
"We stand here today because we believe in the One whom the nativity scene represents," proclaimed Robert Welch, pastor of Rock Hill Baptist Church in nearby Brownsboro, who went on to explain the Christian meaning of the incarnation.
The babe in the manger, Welch said, was "fully God, fully man." He was also "the Lamb of God" who took on the world's sins, Welch proclaimed as the crowd erupted in applause. "And 2,000 years later he is still the Lamb of God."
"This baby was called not just to be the Jewish Messiah but was called to be the Savior of anyone who would call upon Him to be saved -- whether black or white, male or female, young or old, rich or poor, educated or uneducated.... The nativity is the greatest gift ever given."
The nativity is joined on the courthouse grounds by other Christmas-related displays, mostly non-religious. Sanders said the county's attorney had reviewed pertinent cases and found Henderson County to be in compliance with federal law.
After asking area pastors in the crowd to raise their hands, Welch invited the crowd to "grab one of these men by the hand" to learn how they might begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.
On Dec. 16, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote a letter to Sanders expressing his support for the county and offering to write a brief on behalf of the county should FFRF follow through on its threat to sue for the nativity scene's removal. Read More