by Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has crossed the line from carrying out his secular constitutional duties to defend the state of Texas, to using his government bully pulpit to bully and scapegoat atheists.
At a press conference earlier today with Gov. Rick Perry at the Capitol, the grandstanding attorney general, speaking about FFRF, said:
“We will not allow atheist groups from outside of the state of Texas to come into the state, to use menacing and misleading intimidation tactics, to try to bully schools to bow down at the altar of secular beliefs.”
During the press conference, Abbott openly went after FFRF, and by extension, FFRF’s Texas membership of 700, and all atheists and nonbelievers — now estimated to comprise a fifth of the population. We’ve already heard from Texas FFRF members who have children in the schools, who are worried that their attorney general’s menacing remarks will not only escalate religious violations, but create a climate of hostility toward nonbelievers and their children in Texas.
Abbott called his pandering press conference after announcing he is intervening on behalf of Christian cheerleaders suing their school district in Kountze, Texas, aided by a zealous Christian-right group. The school had properly told the cheerleaders to nix religious banners after being contacted by FFRF, acting on behalf of a local resident who was shocked and dismayed to see bible verses used as part of a public school football ritual. The cheerleaders paint bible verses on giant paper banners, and quote such Christian verses as 1 Cor. 15:57: “But thanks be to God, which gives us Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Abbott contemptuously described FFRF as “an atheist group from Wisconsin, who came into the state of Texas and tried to silence these students.”
He bragged about his history of activism in favor of state/church entanglements, including getting involved against FFRF “last year, at Christmastime, I think it was this very same group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, that tried to bully Henderson County in Athens, Texas, into removing a nativity scene off of the county court grounds. There’s a bottom line here, and that is . . . we are not going to either tolerate or accept these atheist groups trying to prevent that freedom of expression here in the state of Texas.”
The Constitution and FFRF are not “preventing freedom of expression,” we are defending freedom of conscience. The Constitution differentiates government (public school) speech from individual speech. Those cheerleaders are free to worship as they like, go to the church of their choice, but not to exploit a public school event, and their school-sponsored podium, to push their personal religious views on an entire stadium. That’s just plain bad manners.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who repeatedly referred during the press conference to Abbott as “General,” castigated FFRF and state/church proponents. He said:
“The underlying problem here is that there’s this very vocal, as you shared, and very litigious minority of Americans that are willing to legally attack anybody who dares to utter a phrase, a name that they don’t agree with.”
Perry went on to demonstrate that he apparently has never read the godless Constitution he has taken oaths to uphold, saying: “We’re also a culture built upon the concept that the original law is god’s law, outlined in the ten commandments.”
The reprehensible actions of the governor and attorney general are the very reason our founders adopted a First Amendment — to keep local majorities from tyrannizing the minorities, and government officials from using their offices to promote religion.
Tell Perry and Abbott that they have crossed the line. Phone calls are best, so please call them today!
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
- Information and Referral Hotline [for Texas callers]: (800) 843-5789
- Information and Referral and Opinion Hotline [for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers]: (512) 463-1782
- Office of the Governor Main Switchboard [office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST]: (512) 463-2000
- Citizen's Assistance Telecommunications Device. If you are using a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD), call 711 to reach Relay Texas
Email Contact Form: http://governor.state.tx.us/contact/
Attorney General Greg Abbott
Office of the Attorney General
PO Box 12548
Austin, TX 78711-2548
Phone: (512) 463-2100
Read transcript of governor’s and AG’s remarks
View video at the governor’s official website
Read FFRf’s original letter of complaint
Read FFRF’s amicus brief
Read previous press releases:
FFRF files amicus brief in Texas prayer banner case (Oct. 3, 2012)
Texas AG attacks FFRF, butts into banner case (Sept. 28, 2012)
Read FFRf’s original letter of complaintTexas school halts football bible banners (Sept. 19, 2012)