Thursday, December 22, 2016

Removal of Secular "Nativity Scene" May Be Viewpoint Discrimination

In Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Abbott, (WD TX, Dec. 20, 2016), a Texas federal district court allowed plaintiff to move ahead with one aspect of its free speech claim in its challenge to the Texas governor's order removing from the Texas State Capitol exhibition area plaintiff's Bill of Rights "Nativity Scene." The display was accompanied by a banner that focuses on the Winter Solstice and separation of church and state.  The Texas State Preservation Board originally approved the display, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott who is executive director of the Board instructed that it be taken down.  He contended that the display did not meet the requirement of promoting a "public purpose." The court held:
In this case, a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether Defendants' decision to remove FFRF's exhibit constitutes viewpoint discrimination.
Plaintiff's other 1st and 14th Amendment challenges were dismissed. Dallas News reports on the decision.