Texas Officials Illuminate Crosses After Atheists’ Call for Removal

San Jacinto County Courthouse with cross illuminated. (Photo: Dwayne Wright/San Jacinto County GOP)
Photo: Dwayne Wright/San Jacinto County GOP

COLDSPRING, TX – Elected officials in an East Texas community defiantly illuminated the crosses on their courthouse after an atheist organization told them to take them down. The move came after the county judge and commissioners voted unanimously to keep the four crosses on the county building.

Breitbart News reported that the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) complained to San Jacinto County public officials about the prominent display of the “Latin cross[es].” The self-described “state/church watchdog” claims it has over 30,000 members.

The foundation issued an “Action Alert” to its supporters on May 7th saying, “A concerned Coldspring resident reported to FFRF that San Jacinto County has the crosses up all year round and even lights the crosses during the holiday season.” The organization that calls itself a “nonprophet nonprofit” asked members to “Tell San Jacinto commissioners to remove courthouse crosses.”

As reported, 600-700 residents filled the Coldspring Community Shelter when the commissioners voted on the issue. Over 45 residents signed up to address the county officials at the meeting which felt like a revival, one speaker said.

Residents of the county of just under 29,000 people celebrated on social media after it saw photos of the illuminated Christian symbol on the courthouse.

Dwayne Wright, who serves as the county’s GOP chair, took this photo and posted it on his Facebook page saying, “THIS is how we roll in San Jacinto County! Not only did we not cower to the Wisconsin Whiners, we Lit Them Up!”

The reaction was instantaneous and celebratory.

Legal foundations offered to provide representation if the organization sues the East Texas county.

Breitbart News has reported about FFRF efforts to regulate other types of expression, including speech in other places in Texas.

Several years ago, the organization told Hondo, Texas, it should take its iconic signs down. The signs in the community of 9,000 say, “Welcome. This is God’s Country. Please Don’t Drive Through It Like Hell.” The mayor was reported to respond, “There’s no way in hell we’re going to take those signs down.” The signs have existed since 1932 in the city just 40 minutes west of San Antonio.

Officials in Orange, Texas, took another direction after being challenged by the foundation. Residents were furious when county officials decided to take down a nativity scene that had been hosted on city property to celebrate the holidays for 30 years. The FFRF had demanded a display of their own. City Manager Shawn Oubre told Fox4 in Beaumont, Texas, that officials removed the Nativity scene in order to avoid legal costs.

At this weeks’ commissioner court meeting in Coldspring, there were boos and jeers when the decision of the special utility district was announced. The local water management board voted not to display a cross on its water tower at Christmas.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart News. She is a trial lawyer who previously served as a prosecutor and associate judge in Texas. Shadwick can be reached at Lana@LanaShadwick.com.

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