You're a Mean One, Mister Governor

Bah, humbug! Abbott kicks Founding Fathers out of Capitol.

Proving how Texas has forgotten about both American history and the separation of church and state, Gov. Greg Abbott has had a picture of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Lady Liberty, and even the Bill of Rights kicked out of the Capitol.

The Founding Fathers and the Bill of Rights: endangering Gov. Greg Abbott's beliefs, apparently. (Photo courtesy of Freedom From Religion Foundation)

Actually, it was a small tableau (about three foot tall) stuck in an innocuous corner of the building. The image in question was placed there by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which had been approved to place a depiction of the four figures surrounding the Bill of Rights, in what can only be seen as a charming homage to the Nativity Scene. This was a major honor, especially considering that the Legislature places a Christmas tree in both chambers, but keeps the Menorah outside the Capitol gates.

However, this vile display of, erm, significant figures in American political history was too much for the tender sensibilities of Abbott. He tweeted that "Mocking the Capitol Nativity Scene is Offensive. I Demand Removal of Satirical 'Nativity Scene' from Capitol." He added a link to a Breitbart story (because Breitbart is clearly the official state media of Texas now), to whom he had provided an "exclusive" (their words) copy of his letter (in his secondary role as chair of the Texas State Preservation Board) to TSPB executive director John Sneed, demanding that the display be removed.

Comparing the piece to the scandal over Andres Serrano's Piss Christ (because that's the same piece of art that Republicans have clung to since 1987), Abbott called the depiction of three Founding Fathers, the Statue of Liberty, and the Bill of Rights to be a "juvenile parody [that] violates the Preservation Board's regulations."

Abbott then went on to quote a long section from Washington's prayer journal. Slight problem there, in that the journal has been roundly debunked as a fake.

Of course, enter everyone's favorite posturing evangelical, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. He's long confused the Legislature with a place of worship, being the man responsible for having "In God We Trust" carved into the Senate walls, and boycotting the traditional morning invocation when it was delivered by an imam rather than a priest. He blasted out a press release, saying that "I support Governor Abbott in calling for the immediate removal of the 'mock nativity' display located inside the Texas State Capitol. It violates the State Preservation Board's regulations for Capitol displays and purposefully mocks the religious beliefs of others."

Finally, it was seemingly up to House Administration Chair Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, to put the heavy hand on Sneed and pull the picture.

So it seems that all is right with the world. Except that the Wisconsin-based FFRF is considering its legal options. In a statement about the removal of an image of the Bill of Rights, foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote, "Ironically, the very document that our display was honoring is what protects this form of expression. Government officials cannot censor our speech because they disagree with our secular message."

Of course, Abbott's defense is seemingly that the display was there for no other reason than to mock the religious beliefs of others. Hmm. So that means he should have no objection to a display that celebrates the profoundly held beliefs of any other religious group.

Hey, anyone checked if the Church of Satan has one of those statues of Baphomet going spare? That would look really pretty in the rotunda.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Christmas, State Preservation Board, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, Charlie Geren, Freedom From Religion Foundation

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